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Cocktail: the birth of a New World

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Adya Menon

14th October 2020

A revolutionary enzyme that can digest plastic six times faster is finally here. An enzyme found living in a bunch of plastic bottles was taken and mixed with the PETase- a class of chemical enzymes that are made with esterase and can be found in most mammals- to increase plastic's breakdown process. British and American researchers have claimed that this compound, named 'Cocktail', could be the next phase of a better world as plastic would be eaten away at recycling sites, as mentioned in Science Daily

Cocktail, a newly developed plastic enzyme (Source: dog news)

Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the U.S., along with Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, co-led the team, just as they had for the making of PETase, as reported in Fortune. PET is used to make a variety of bottles, carpets, and clothes. The trans-Atlantic team that had initially engineered PETase, which is 20% faster in PET's disintegration, has also designed MHETase, which has turned out to speed the PET breakdown further by three times. The cocktail can digest this six times faster than PETase. 

As reported from Fortune, The University of Portsmouth's professor, John McGeehan, said, "Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them as two Pac-men joined by a piece of string. It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was worth the effort. We were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to six times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements." Being the optimistic person he is, he has further said that the recycling of polyester and cotton would be possible by the newly revised combined enzymes leading to breaking down natural fibre and synthetic. 

According to Science Daily, when scientists had introduced the first version of PETase, there was hope that the global plastic pollution would exhibit a mass diminution. Enzymes from the environment are taken and used by synthetic biology to create new enzymes for the industry. This process is carried forward by The Centre of Enzyme Innovation.

News Sources: Science Daily, Waste Advantage Magazine, Fortune

Edited by: Aayush Lahoti

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