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Plastic-Eating Enzyme Accidentally Developed By Scientists

Accidentally developed plastic-eating enzyme by the scientists to put a stop on plastic pollution problems

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Plastic pollution.
Pollution caused due to plastic. Pixabay

Scientists have accidentally developed a plastic-eating enzyme that may be used to combat one of the world’s worst pollution problems, a media report said.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme found in a waste recycling centre a few years ago in Japan, CNN reported on Tuesday.

The finding was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They said the enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, is able to “eat” polyethylene terephthalate, PET, which was patented as a plastic in the 1940s and is used in millions of tonnes of plastic bottles.

A scientist working with a microscope.
A Scientist. Pixabay

Their aim was to study its structure, but they accidentally engineered an enzyme which was even better at breaking down PET plastics.

“We hoped to determine its structure to aid in protein engineering, but we ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme with improved performance at breaking down these plastics,” said NREL’s lead researcher Gregg Beckham.

The discovery could result in a recycling solution for millions of tonnes of plastic bottles made of PET, which currently persists for hundreds of years in the environment, the University of Portsmouth said on its website.

“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” said Professor McGeehan, director of the Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences in the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth.

The enzyme can also degrade polyethylene furandicarboxylate, or PEF, a bio-based substitute for PET plastics that is being hailed as a replacement for glass beer bottles, CNN reported.

Also Read: Daylight Turns Plastic Sheet into Germ-Killing Material

PEF plastics, although bio-based, are not biodegradable, and would still end up as waste in landfills and in the seas, the NREL said.

According to a three-year study published in Scientific Reports last month, a huge, swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is growing faster than expected and is now three times the size of France, more than double the size of Texas.  IANS

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Actors Ajay, Kajol Support Initiative to Turn Plastic ‘Fantastic’

"We can utilise the waste metrical for recycled product and our 'Plastic Banega Fantastic' is an initiative to show how."

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Ajay, Kajol support initiative to turn plastic 'fantastic'. Wikimedia Commons

Actors Ajay Devgan and Kajol on Saturday urged people to segregate plastic from daily garbage in a way that it can be utilised to make a recycled product.

The couple came together to support an initiative taken by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) at the Mahim Creek. As part of HUL’s “Start a Little Good”, a plastic collection drive named “Plastic Banega Fantastic” has begun.

Talking about how effective recycling plastic could be, Kajol said: “We will be giving fishing nets to fisherfolks, and those are made out of recycled plastic… We will give them a park bench that is made out of recycled plastic and many such things. Basically, the idea is to show them products that we can make out of recycled plastic and also usable for daily life.”

“When they see what you can do in a productive manner to segregate plastics out of daily days, people will hopefully take the step seriously,” added the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai actress.

Asked if the government’s Swachch Bharat initiative is bringing any visible change in the surroundings, Ajay said: “We have a large population and it takes time to change people’s habits. There are people who throw garbage everywhere and with constant talks, people will become aware of how such things are harming the planet.”

As parents, Ajay and Kajol both believe that bringing little changes can create a big difference in children’s lives and that is how they can bring about a change in the future generation.

Kajol Devgan
Kajol Devgan, flickr

Any special things they teach their two children?

Ajay said: “Small things like not wasting water, switching off the light and all electric gadgets when it’s not used. At times kids just waste tissue papers just for fun, and I keep saying not to do that. From their childhood, if we can inculcate these habits in them, it will become a part of their lifestyle.

“Like my son carries a steal tiffin box instead of plastic. We use steel bottles and straw instead of plastic… I know these are very small thing, but as Ajay says these things slowly but surely change the big picture. These things will make them much responsible citizens of the world,” said Kajol.

Also Read- Kerala Government Decides to Revise The List of Women Who Prayed at Sabarimala

The event saw a a beach cleaning session by Ajay and Kajol along with popular radio jockey Malishka Mendonsa.

On the initiative, HUL Chairman Sanjiv Mehta told IANS: “While the invention of plastic is great, the problem started with its waste, used material. Since we all are using plastic and it is an integral part of our life, as people, we have to use it responsibly.

“We can utilise the waste metrical for recycled product and our ‘Plastic Banega Fantastic’ is an initiative to show how.” (IANS)