The plastic breakdown breakthrough

By Scoop
May 5, 2022 · less than 3 min read

Scientists at the University of Texas have discovered a way to speed up the breaking down of plastics from centuries to just days.

Breaking good

One of the generational challenges we all face is reducing our plastic waste, with the damage that non-biodegradable trash causes now impossible to ignore. Enter: Science. Like a shining clan of knights on horseback, a group of scientists at the University of Texas published groundbreaking findings last week about a new way to easily degrade plastic.

Using machine learning, the scientists created a fast-acting protein that deteriorates polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is found in most clothing and plastics. It might sound like jargon, but according to the scientists, PET accounts for 12% of global waste, meaning their work could have an awesome global impact.

Science for the win

Having been tested on more than 50 types of plastic containers, this major breakthrough surrounding ‘depolymerization’ (the breaking down of PET) is big news, potentially one-upping the 2005 discovery of 19 different enzymes that could break down plastics only at specific temperatures and conditions.

The world’s brightest are pioneering new ways of tackling the big issues everywhere. With plastic waste in Amsterdam’s canals being purposely trapped by the ‘Great Bubble Barrier’ – literally, a wall of bubbles sending plastic to the surface – and other incredible scientific innovations popping up across the globe, there’s certainly scope for optimism when it comes to the future of our planet.

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