Plastic-eating enzyme cocktail digests plastic six times faster than PETase

The same team who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster. The combination of two enzymes breaks PET into its building blocks to be recycled.

MHETase, a second plastic-digesting enzyme, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plastic.

PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets, and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment. PETase can shorten this time to days, explains a statement.

Now, the scientists behind the PETase discovery have combined PETase and MHETase to generate much bigger improvements.

Simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a ‘super-enzyme’ increased this activity by a further three times, according to the statement.

The Centre for Enzyme Innovation takes enzymes from the natural environment and, using synthetic biology, adapts them to create new enzymes for industry.

Image credit: Greens MPs, flickr/Creative Commons

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