Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Eating Plastic

News that scientists at Portsmouth have 'accidentally' produced an enzyme that breaks down certain plastics has been greeted with great excitement (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/16/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-that-eats-plastic-bottles). The enzyme was extracted from tip-dwelling bacteria before having its potency to break down plastic bottles increased some 20% (leading the scientists to speculate that the 'eating efficiency' can be further increased by changing in the protein molecule). The idea seems to be that the bottles can be converted to the materials that could be recombined to make new plastics (reducing the needs to extract more hydrocarbons to synthesise these items). The resulting technology may well become commercially viable but will not, I think, 'solve' the plastics problem. I am not very enthusiastic about the suggestion that it could be sprayed on plastic contaminated areas of the oceans.

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