Plastic pollution is still a growing problem. Tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans and ecosystems, threatening our planet. Ok, recycling and reducing plastic consumption are important steps, but we need a more realistic solution to break down plastics. So, the mutant enzyme is (maybe) a new hope in the fight against plastic pollution.

This unique enzyme can break down plastic into its building blocks, offering a potential solution to the plastic maelstrom we currently face. Let’s explore the science behind the mutant enzyme and its potential to save us from the plastic crisis.

Scientists say this mutant enzyme can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), used in soda bottles, textiles and packaging, into raw materials in hours. When PETs are recycled, they’re of low quality and can only be used for products such as clothing and carpets. However, we can use the recycled plastic obtained with this enzyme for durable base materials suitable for food-grade bottles.

Professor John McGeehan, director of the Center for Enzyme Innovation, says this new invention makes PET biorecycling possible on a large scale. He also says it’s a big step because collecting and recycling plastic waste could reduce dependence on petroleum, carbon emissions and save energy.

Read more: Irish teen wins global science award for project that extracts microplastics from water

What’s the fastest way to decompose plastic? A mutant enzyme?

Scientists have spent years searching for microbial enzymes that can degrade PET and other plastics. This mutant enzyme can be a major step forward.

In 2018, McGeehan was the lead researcher on a similar initiative. Behind this latest research is a French company: Carbios. To increase the enzyme’s stability and efficiency, researchers mutated its variants, known as Leaf Branch Compost Cutinase (LLC). According to the researchers, 200 grams of PET were reduced by 90 percent to their original chemical building blocks in a small reactor in just 10 hours.

The future of the plastics crisis

The world is in a plastic pollution crisis. We have too much plastic waste in our oceans, rivers, and landfills. Fruits and vegetables already contain microplastics. It even affects the fetus.

But what if we could stop the plastic mess?

Scientists have discovered a way to break down plastic faster. A mutated enzyme could reduce plastic waste, especially in landfills and oceans. The enzyme has the potential to significantly change the fight against plastic pollution.

With other possibilities, we can create a more sustainable future. For example, with hemp plastic. How does that sound? How about plastic made from banana leaves?

What can we do?

Just a mutant enzyme or else can’t solve the global plastic pollution crisis, sure. However, we can reduce our plastic consumption.

We can start by raising our voices and awareness about the plastic problem. For example;

  • Talk to our friends, families, and co-workers about the importance of reducing plastic.
  • Join local environmental organizations, such as beach cleanup groups and plastic reduction initiatives.

Moreover, we can also make a difference at home by reducing our own plastic consumption. For example;

  • Eliminate single-use plastic items such as straws and shopping bags and switch to reusable items.
  • Choose products that are made from sustainable materials like bamboo and are biodegradable.