A mutant bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours has been created by scientists. The enzyme, originally discovered in a compost heap of leaves, reduced the bottles to chemical building blocks that were then used to make high-quality new bottles. Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic only good enough for clothing and carpets. The company behind the breakthrough, Carbios, said it was aiming for industrial-scale recycling within five years. It has partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development. Independent experts called the new enzyme a major advance. Billions of tonnes of plastic waste have polluted the planet , from the Arctic to the deepest ocean trench , and pose a particular risk to sea life. Campaigners say reducing the use of plastic is key, but the company said the strong, lightweight material was very useful and that true recycling was part of the solution. The new enzyme was revealed in research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature . The work began with the screening of 100,000 micro-organisms for promising candidates, including the leaf compost bug, which was first discovered in 2012. “It had been completely forgotten, but it turned out […]

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