Researchers have physically linked two enzymes to speed up the breakdown of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a thermoplastic widely used in plastic bottles.
The naturally occurring enzymes of PETase and MHETase together form a 'super enzyme' that shows a measurable degradation of PET after only a few minutes.
These results indicate the 'cocktail' could break down a 20 oz plastic bottle in just 6 weeks. If left in the environment, such a bottle would take hundreds of years to fully decompose.
Approximately 12 million tons of plastic enters the Earth's oceans annually.
'As the technology continues to progress, the development of multiple strategies will hopefully get the process to the level of performance required to see biological recycling facilities put to practice in the next few years,' says researcher Erika Erickson at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.