A New Enzyme Found in Compost Just Set a Speed Record For Breaking Down Plastic

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      The possibilities for recycling are immense. Each year, more than 82 million metric tons of PET are produced worldwide, and only a small percent has been recycled into new plastic. Even when a plastic product is sent to a recycling plant, the process to melt it down and create something new is energy intensive and expensive.

      Biological recycling, on the other hand, could help to create a cheap and efficient circular plastic economy. Over the past few years, scientists have been racing to develop plastic-eating bacteria for this very purpose.

      PHL7 stands out from other candidates found so far. The way it rapidly breaks down PET seems to hinge on a single building block in its DNA.

      At a certain spot in its amino acid sequence, PHL7 carries a leucine where other enzymes carry phenylalanine residue. In the past, leucine in this position has been linked to the binding of polymers to enzymes.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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