United Kingdom government pledges £61m to fight plastic waste in Commonwealth countries

United Kingdom government pledges £61m to fight plastic waste in Commonwealth countries

A study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may result in a recycling solution to millions of tonnes of plastic bottles, made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which now persists for hundreds of years in the environment.

The mutant enzyme can also degrade polyethylene furandicarboxylate, or PEF, a bio-based substitute for PET plastics that is being hailed as a replacement for glass beer bottles.

Two scientists have accidentally stumbled upon an organic enzyme that can eat some of our worst polluting plastics, providing a possible solution to what is arguably one of the world's biggest environmental problems. There was also a further £20 million to prevent plastic and other environmental pollution from manufacturing in developing countries.

"The amended rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastics (MLP) is now applicable to MLPs that are non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use", the statement said. Enzymes are a form of protein that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions.

Prof McGeehan said few could have predicted since plastics became popular in the 1960s that huge plastic waste patches would be found floating in oceans or washed up on once pristine beaches all over the world.

They used this 3D information to understand how it works, and during this study, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastics than the one that evolved in nature.

Japanese researchers believe the bacterium evolved fairly recently in a waste recycling centre, since plastics were not invented until the 1940s.

"But they ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme which was even better at breaking down PET plastics", said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed U.S. journal.

Lead scientist prof John McGeehan, from Portsmouth university, said: 'Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research, and our discovery is no exception.

Researchers say they are now working on further improvements to the enzyme, with the hope of eventually scaling it up for industrial use in breaking down plastics.

To analyse PETease, the teams employed the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire.