We live in a world that is so polluted by plastics that it can be found in every living thing and even in sea salt. A new, accidental, discovery by scientists at Portsmouth University may be the solution to the problem, or it may be the beginning of a horrifying future gone wrong. The discovery is a new enzyme that actually eats PET plastics in a matter of hours.
The new enzyme is an engineered version of another enzyme that was discovered in a Japanese landfill back in 2016 and can be used to break down plastic as simply as detergent is used to remove a grass stain from jeans. The current level of enhancement has taken the enzyme to a state of being 20% more effective than the naturally occurring bacteria from which it is derived. This gives the researchers hope that they are on the path to being able to further enhance it until it reaches a state of full optimization.
On the upside, there’s a chance that this could help us get rid of all the plastic that is currently polluting the world. On the downside, we could be looking at a scenario where we stop looking for an alternative to these plastics because we can just douse them with the enzyme and be done with them. Then, of course, is the classic GI Joe episode I remember from when I was a kid. In the episode, scientists created a bacteria that could eat trash. Unfortunately, it ate pretty much everything and was on the path towards destroying the world until the Joes poisoned it with apples.