Plastic to a certain extent can be recycled. However it is a much more difficult process and an expensive one compared to other materials, but it seems that scientists might have come up with a way to deal with our plastic problem. This comes in the form of a “mutant” enzyme that has the ability to eat plastic bottles.

The researchers were initially inspired by the discovery of a bacterium in 2016 in Japan that had naturally evolved to eat plastic found at waste dumps. The team’s plan was to tweak the enzyme to see how it evolved, but it seems that their efforts at trying to better understand the enzyme inadvertently resulted in creating a more effective enzyme.

This enzyme is said to be so effective that it only needs a few days to start breaking down plastic, much faster than natural processes that could take centuries. The researchers are optimistic and believe that this can be sped up even further and also eventually become a viable large-scale process.

According to John McGeehan, a professor at the University of Portsmouth, UK who led the research, “What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic. It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

Of course this discovery does not mean that we can go back to making more plastic, but rather it seems like a way to deal with our current plastics problem.

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