NREL, UK University Partner To Dive Deeper Into How Enzymes Digest Plastic

NREL researchers Chris Johnson and Rita Clare take biological samples from an old PET soda bottle that Johnson found during a cleanup drive around NREL. They are looking to isolate any microbes that may be breaking down the PET. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL researchers Chris Johnson and Rita Clare take biological samples from an old PET soda bottle that Johnson found during a cleanup drive around NREL. They are looking to isolate any microbes that may be breaking down the PET. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL researchers Chris Johnson and Rita Clare take biological samples from an old PET soda bottle that Johnson found during a cleanup drive around NREL. They are looking to isolate any microbes that may be breaking down the PET. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Golden, CO, Oct. 01, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A collaboration between scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, and other partners has yielded further insight into the workings of plastic-eating enzymes.

The research determined two synergistic enzymes—PETase and MHETase—work effectively in tandem to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which

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One Answer to Plastic Waste? Hungry, Hungry Enzymes

The world has a major problem when it comes to waste plastic. A reported 91% of plastic is not recycled, adding up to billions of tons over the past decades. Much of this winds up becoming trash. A hungry, plastic-munching “enzyme cocktail” could help.

Researchers at the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, have developed an enzyme that’s capable of breaking down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into its composite building blocks impressively quickly — like, days instead of hundreds of years. This means that plastics could be manufactured and reused endlessly. That, in turn, could have a significant impact on our reliance on fossil resources like oil and gas. In short, it could turn out to be a game-changer for recycling.

The international team of investigators behind the enzyme mix has been working on this problem for a while. They previously had some promising

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