Scientists have created an enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours, according to research published in Nature. The enzyme breaks down Poly(ethylene terephthalate) or (PET), the most abundant polyester plastic.

The enzyme was created by the company called Carbios and was originally found in a compost heap of leaves. Existing recycling practices only work well enough on clothing or carpets. Carbios‘ will work on new plastic bottles. The technology is already making companies like Pepsi and L’Oreal excited. Both organizations have partnered with Carbios to bring the technology to market.

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In a test, the enzyme broke down a tonne of plastic waste. The waste was 90% degraded in 10 hours and then the material was used to make new plastic bottles. Martin Stephan, the deputy chief executive at Carbios, told the Guardian, ” We are the first company to bring this technology on the market. Our goal is to be up and running by 2024, 2025, at large industrial scale.”

The enzyme will be part of the solution to reduce and recycle the enormous volume of plastic waste used by countries around the world. Half of all plastic ends up in the environment or a landfill. “But we all know that plastic brings a lot of value to society, in food, medical care, transportation. The problem is plastic waste,” Stephan said.

Prof John McGeehan, the director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, told the Guardian that Carbios’ enzyme, ” represents a significant step forward for true circular recycling of PET and has the potential to reduce our reliance on oil, cut carbon emissions and energy use, and incentivise the collection and recycling of waste plastic.”

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

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