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Scientists accidentally develop plastic-eating enzyme

IANS  |  Washington 

Scientists have accidentally developed a plastic-eating enzyme that may be used to combat one of the world's worst problems, a media report said.

Researchers from and the US Department of Energy's (NREL) made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme found in a waste recycling centre a few years ago in Japan, reported on Tuesday.

The finding was published on Monday in

They said the enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, is able to "eat" polyethylene terephthalate, PET, which was patented as a in the 1940s and is used in millions of tonnes of bottles.

Their aim was to study its structure, but they accidentally engineered an enzyme which was even better at breaking down PET

"We hoped to determine its structure to aid in protein engineering, but we ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme with improved performance at breaking down these plastics," said NREL's

The discovery could result in a recycling solution for millions of tonnes of bottles made of PET, which currently persists for hundreds of years in the environment, the University of said on its website.

"Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception," said McGeehan, of the and Biomedical Sciences in the at

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

PEF plastics, although bio-based, are not biodegradable, and would still end up as waste in landfills and in the seas, the NREL said.

According to a three-year study published in Scientific Reports last month, a huge, swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Garbage Patch, is growing faster than expected and is now three times the size of France, more than double the size of



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 17 2018. 11:06 IST