United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

Jeannie Matthews
April 17, 2018

Scientists have engineered a biological enzyme which can rapidly digest some of the most common forms of polluting plastics that persist for hundreds of years in the environment.

A study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may result in a recycling solution to millions of tonnes of plastic bottles, made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which now persists for hundreds of years in the environment.

The nature-based network will bring together its global network of scientists and academics to support the fund's vision and provide targeted funding to improve recycling and waste management so the volume of plastic pollution in the oceans can be measurably reduced. During this work, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastic than the one that evolved in nature. The breakthrough comes after a bacterium that had evolved to...

Finding the enzyme was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, PET plastic, the researchers made a decision to "tweak" its structure by adding amino acids, said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work.

"That's really exciting because that means that there's potential to optimise the enzyme even further".

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Prof McGeehan said few could have predicted since plastics became popular in the 1960s that huge plastic waste patches would be found floating in oceans or washed up on once pristine beaches all over the world.

The cash will be used for grants, innovation challenges and events to raise the profile of the plastic problem and fund the development of alternative materials and new, zero-waste manufacturing processes. Using intense X-rays at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility in Harwell, Oxfordshire, the team inadvertently created a powerful new version of the protein.

"Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research, and our discovery here is no exception", said study author John McGeehan, professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth.

Sri Lanka joins Commonwealth alliance to fight against plastic pollution Sun, Apr 15, 2018, 09:19 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

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