The discovery was done by accident. Researchers were analysing the crystal structure of PETase, an enzyme that can digest PET, when they engineered a mutant version of it that is more efficient in degrading plastic.
This specific mutant enzyme may not be the solution to plastic pollution and non-degradation of plastics, but it opens the door and gives us a sign that we can engineer a super enzyme that could revolutionise the plastic sector.
The other good news is that the mutant enzyme was able to degrade PET and PEF.
The questions remain: can a super mutant enzyme be developed and will it be suitable for industrial-scale applications.
It looks like mankind will eventually solve the plastic pollution through consumer behaviour, scientific discoveries and political will. We all know that consumers and science are more reliable than politicians.
This discovery comes at a very opportune moment because consumer behaviour towards plastic (packaging) is changing …so one could say that it looks even better than a PR campaign.