A plastic container thrown into a landfill may take hundreds of years to decompose naturally, but scientists have discovered an enzyme that may be able to "eat" the waste in a day. High decomposition efficiency The highly efficient polyester hydrolase, called PHL7, was recently discovered in a German cemetery while they were "chewing" compost. PHL7 is not the first "plastic eater" discovered by scientists, but it is the fastest. In 2016, LLC, an enzyme that devours ethylene terephthalate (PET), was discovered at a recycling plant in Japan.
Since those years, it has been hailed as the gold-standard plastic eater. The newly discovered PHL7, however, phagocytoses twice as fast as LLC—in the lab, researchers found that PHL7 can break down PET by 90 percent within 16 hours. Since its photo retouching discovery in 2016, LLC enzymes have been tweaked by scientists to create mutants that are more gluttonous than their natural forms. However, this synthetic version has a lot to learn from PHL7. Scope of application Microbiologist Wolfgang A. of Leipzig University in Germany.
Professor Wolfgang Zimmermann said: "The discovery of the PHL7 enzyme in Leipzig could make an important contribution to establishing alternative energy-efficient plastic recycling processes. Biocatalysts currently under development have shown that PHL7 can rapidly decompose used PET. Food packaging is highly effective and suitable for an environmentally friendly recycling process where new plastics are created from the breakdown products.”