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An enzyme that digests plastic could be the solution to plastic pollution

4 May 2018 12:23 PM
Tags:
Pollution
Plastic
enzymes
Prof John McGeehan says scientists researching a naturally-occurring enzyme that has been found to digest plastic.

We have a global problem of plastic waste. From occupying landfills to floating in the ocean.

READ: Plastic pollution highlighted: 'It's difficult to swim through all the bottles'

If you look at the stomach contents of some of some beached whales there is a great deal of plastic that has been ingested.

Kieno Kammies and his team had the privilege of visiting a plastic recycling plant in Cape town where PET is melted down into ultrafine fibres and spun into yarn which is them made into clothing and carpets.

But have you ever then wondered where those products will end up when they're old and worn?

Scientists have been working on a naturally-occurring enzyme that has been found to digest plastic.

Biomolecular scientist John McGeehan said chemists were asked to make a material that was light and safe and they did it - but they did it too well.

They created a material that has got all these amazing properties, except it is very difficult to biodegrade so it is accumulating in the environment - especially in the oceans - at a staggering rate.

Professor John McGeehan, Structural Biology and Co-Director of the Institute of Biomedical & Biomolecular Science

He said two years ago, a group in Japan who scoured large landfill sites to see if there were any organisms that were actually digesting plastics. Amazingly they found a bacteria that was living off plastic as its main food source.

Listen below to the full interview:


4 May 2018 12:23 PM
Tags:
Pollution
Plastic
enzymes

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