Scientists have found an enzyme that can process up to 90% of plastic bottles. The resulting plastic after processing is almost identical in its characteristics to that which was originally produced from petroleum products. Description of the development of scientists from the University of Toulouse published in the journal Nature.
Humanity produces a huge amount of plastic – in 2015 this figure was 400 million tons per year, and by 2025 production will double. According to scientists, every year, 8 million tons of plastic waste is delivered to the ocean. However, the authors of the study note that this amount may turn out to be only 1% of the actual annual pollution.
The most popular type of plastic bottle is PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – it accounts for about a fifth of the world’s plastic production. Recycling PET is a rather complicated and expensive process, and with current methods, the resulting plastic loses some of its mechanical properties – in other words, its quality decreases after processing.
In a new study, chemists synthesized an enzyme that would allow the processing of PET with extremely low loss of mechanical properties compared to the original characteristics. The enzyme is called Cutisan LLC – it is able to break down 99.8 of terephthalic acid, which is 90% of PET waste, in 10 hours.
The processing cost was significantly lower than with current methods, the study said. The authors of the work note that bottles made from plastic processed in this way are not inferior in quality to those produced initially.