Scientists have discovered a mutated bacterial enzyme that is able to break down PET plastic bottles almost completely within a few hours. In a proof of concept demonstration, the new enzyme was used to break down a ton of plastic waste bottles. In just 10 hours it had 90% broken down the garbage! This is evident from an article recently published in the journal Nature. In fact, the researchers saw the incredible enzyme back in 2012 when its properties were accidentally discovered in a screening of 100,000 microorganisms. Since then it has been subject to research and improvement.

Carbios, the French company behind its development hopes to achieve industrial-scale recycling in just five years. To that end, it has partnered with companies like Pepsi and L’Oréal to speed up the process. It also signed a contract with biotech company Novozymes to produce the new enzyme on a large scale. This is done using mushrooms in the mass production process. In addition, Carbios plans to repeat testing of its enzyme in 2021 at a demonstration facility near Lyon, France.

The enzyme practically feeds on PET plastic bottles

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours bacteria under microscope graphic

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours. Bacteria eats pet plastic waste

The enzyme doesn’t just break down plastic bottles, it does a lot more!

The most exciting part of the breakthrough isn’t just the speed at which the enzyme can break down plastic bottles. The mutated bacterial enzyme actually breaks down plastic so that it can be recycled into new high quality water bottles. This is a significant advance over the lower quality plastic that results from current recycling techniques.

PET plastic is the biggest polluter of the environment

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours Recycle plastic bottle waste properly

“Current estimates assume that of the 359 million tons of plastics produced annually worldwide, 150 to 200 million tons accumulate in landfills or in the natural environment,” the researchers write in an article that describes their work.

The researchers now hope to turn this alarming statistic on its head. And that with their mutated bacterial enzyme. Currently it can only recycle polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET). However, PET is the most widely used thermoplastic polymer in the world and is used to make plastic bottles, polyester clothing, food containers, packaging and much more. Yes, nature proves again and again that it always finds a way to deal with our waste. Hopefully this enzyme will mark the end of the plastic waste.

The enzyme looks something like this under a microscope

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours of experiment French scientists

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours Scientists develop enzyme bacteria

Soon we will no longer find any trash in the oceans

Mutated bacterial enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in hours. Plastic pet in the ocean