A bacteria that eats plastic may sound too good to be true since we have so much plastic waste littering the planet. The rouble with plastic eating bacterias is that they aren’t efficient nor can they survive long outside the lab. So a research team turned to machine learning, or AI, to create a new enzyme that helps bacteria break down plastic. Of course, the best approach to eliminating plastic waste is not to use plastic in the first place.
Here’s the abstract:
Plastic waste poses an ecological challenge and enzymatic degradation offers one, potentially green and scalable, route for polyesters waste recycling. Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) accounts for 12% of global solid waste, and a circular carbon economy for PET is theoretically attainable through rapid enzymatic depolymerization followed by repolymerization or conversion/valorization into other products. Application of PET hydrolases, however, has been hampered by their lack of robustness to pH and temperature ranges, slow reaction rates and inability to directly use untreated postconsumer plastics11. Here, we use a structure-based, machine learning algorithm to engineer a robust and active PET hydrolase. Our mutant and scaffold combination (FAST-PETase: functional, active, stable and tolerant PETase) contains five mutations compared to wild-type PETase (N233K/R224Q/S121E from prediction and D186H/R280A from scaffold) and shows superior PET-hydrolytic activity relative to both wild-type and engineered alternatives12 between 30 and 50?°C and a range of pH levels. We demonstrate that untreated, postconsumer-PET from 51 different thermoformed products can all be almost completely degraded by FAST-PETase in 1?week. FAST-PETase can also depolymerize untreated, amorphous portions of a commercial water bottle and an entire thermally pretreated water bottle at 50?ºC. Finally, we demonstrate a closed-loop PET recycling process by using FAST-PETase and resynthesizing PET from the recovered monomers. Collectively, our results demonstrate a viable route for enzymatic plastic recycling at the industrial scale.
Canada joins other nations in the banning of wasteful single use plastics starting at the end of this month. Canada’s plastic ban is being rolled out in an incremental fashion with the manufacture and importation of certain plastic items banned first, so what’s in stock now can still be used. Over the following couple of years items will get banned, first plastic bans and by 2024 plastic rings. Other countries have taken a more stringent approach than Canada, but at least the country is moving forward on the ban. When it comes to ending the climate crisis any win is a win!
“There is a clear linkage between a world free of plastic pollution and a sustainable world, rich in biodiversity—a world that also best supports the health and economic security of Canadians, protects our environment, and helps in the fight against climate change.”
The announcement highlights Canada’s ongoing commitment towards zero plastic waste goal.
By June next year, the country will ban manufacturing and importing of ring carriers, followed by a ban on its sale in June 2024.
Canadians love putting food in petroleum products so much that we ship cucumbers and milk in plastic (yes, you can buy milk in plastic sacks). Thankfully, Canadians are starting to understand that plastic wrapping is wasteful and really bad for the environment. An agricultural company in Ontario has created a way to replace the plastic wrap put on cucumbers with a plant-based alternative.
These plastic-free cucumbers hit shelves the same week the federal government announced new details about its plan toban some single-use plasticsover the next 18 months, including straws, takeout containers, grocery bags and cutlery.
A 2019 Deloitte study found less than one-tenth of the plastic waste Canadians produce is recycled, equating to 3.3 million tonnes of plastic being thrown out annually, almost half of it is plastic packaging.
“Everybody wants to do their share when they’re talking about being [a] good environmental steward,” said DiLaudo.
Plastic waste is everywhere and the tinier the plastic is the harder it is to deal with. These microplastics are proving to be very difficult to address which has sent researchers looking into all sort of solutions. One solution is already up and running in some places: sand filters in water systems. It turns out that some existing sand filtration systems can capture plastic nano particles.
The results are now in, and they include some reassuring findings. In areportpublished today in theJournal of Hazardous Materials, the researchers show that even if untreated water contained considerable quantities of nanoplastics, these particles were retained in sand filters very efficiently during water treatment. Both in laboratory tests and in a larger test facility located directly on the premises of the Zurich Water Works, the biologically active slow sand filter was the most effective at retaining nanoparticles – achieving an efficacy level in the region of 99.9%.
The dangers of microplastics and “forever chemicals” are well known and now legislators in the European Union are acting to protect their people from these primarily petroleum-based creations. New restrictions on what chemicals can be used and sold a in the EU will add to their already strong protections.
The EU is set to add to and reformat their legislation around chemical use in consumer products to better protect people. One of the goals is to prevent companies trying to bypass the consumer protections by creating new chemical compounds which are more dangerous than the original. Increased standards in the EU tend to help people in other parts of the world because companies are forced to change their ways in such a large market.
The plan focuses on entire classes of chemical substances for the first time as a rule, including all flame retardants, bisphenols, PVC plastics, toxic chemicals in single-use nappies and PFAS, which are also known as “forever chemicals” because of the time they take to naturally degrade.
All of these will be put on a “rolling list” ofsubstances to be considered for restriction by the European Chemicals Agency. The list will be regularly reviewed and updated, before a significant revision to the EU’s cornerstoneReach regulationfor chemicals slated for 2027.