Researchers at the University of Leipzig have announced that, through a process called biological recycling, they have discovered an enzyme that can degrade PET in record time. In around 16 hours, the researchers say that the enzyme manages to digest PET by 90%. Enzymes are biocatalysts, so they can lower the activation energy, becoming an alternative to break down PET into its monomers under mild reaction conditions. There are limitations however, as the enzyme can only degrade aPET (amorphous polyester terephthalate) but not biaxially stretched PET, commonly used for carbonated drinks bottles, and other more difficult plastics such as polyethylene or polystyrene, all of which form a considerable part of the world’s plastic waste. The scientists say that Biocatalytic post-consumer PET recycling may well find applications for the recycling of ‘difficult’ plastic waste, for example, multi-layer food packaging that cannot be processed by other methods.
This has applications for PET end of life across all categories – Beverage, Food, Consumer Goods, Health & Beauty, Industrial and Pet Care sectors.