United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

Developing countries signed up to the Alliance will also be eligible to bid for partnership support to improve waste management systems and implement other initiatives to stop plastic waste from reaching oceans, a press statement said.

AN ENZYME that gobbles up plastic could be the answer to the world's recycling headache, say British scientists.

Researchers in the USA and Britain have accidentally engineered an enzyme which eats plastic and may eventually help solve the growing problem of plastic pollution, a study said Monday.

Bottles made from PET are used to package 70 per cent of soft drinks, fruit juices and water sold in shops, restaurants and supermarkets.

UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "The scourge of plastics is a global environmental challenge - and one that overwhelmingly impacts the livelihoods and health of the world's poorest people".

For example, the Department for International Development will fund pilot programmes in up to three Commonwealth developing countries to tackle waste from cities that often ends up in waterways. Enzymes are a form of protein that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions.

The bugs used a natural enzyme called PETase to digest PET bottles and containers. During this work, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastic than the one that evolved in nature.

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Japanese researchers believe the bacterium evolved fairly recently in a waste recycling center, since plastics were not invented until the 1940s. The trait indicated that PETase may have evolved in a PET-containing environment to enable the enzyme to degrade PET.

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

Working with U.S. colleagues, the Portsmouth scientists subjected PETase to intense X-ray beams at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these "wonder-materials" must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions".

"Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics".

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