In an article published on April 16, 2018 by the BBC, science reporter Mary Halton informed that scientists have modified a naturally occurring enzyme, PETase, allowing for a quicker degradation of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The original research, performed by Tobias Fecker and colleagues from the Institute for Biological and Medical Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, was published in the peer-reviewed Biophysical Journal on March 27, 2018.

This enzyme was originally discovered in the ‘PET-eating’ bacteria Ideonella sakaiensis found in Japan (FPF reported). It was now modified by adjusting several crucial amino acid residues to improve its performance. Digestion with the modified PETase requires only a few days to start, compared to hundreds of years needed for PET to break down naturally in the environment. In addition to PET, this enzyme is also able to degrade polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF) plastic.

According to Elisabeth Skoda’s article, published on April 17, 2018 by Packaging Europe, “researchers are now working on improving the enzyme further to allow it to be used industrially to break down plastics in a fraction of time.”

Read more

Mary Halton (April 16, 2018). “Recycling hope for plastic-hungry enzyme.BBC

Elisabeth Skoda (April 17, 2018). “A game-changing discovery to combat PET waste?Packaging Europe

Michael Lauzon (April 18, 2018). “Scientists engineer plastics-eating enzyme.Plastics News Europe


Fecker, T., et al. (2018). “Active site flexibility as a hallmark for efficient PET degradation by I. sakaiensis PETase.Biophysical Journal 114:1302-1312.