Sub-micro- and nano-sized polyethylene terephthalate deconstruction with engineered protein nanopores
Researchers from Spain developed artificial proteins that can degrade and reduce nanoplastics and PET microplastics down to their essential components for easier recycling and breaking down. This will help reduce plastic pollution in the environment.
About 400 million plastic tons are manufactured worldwide, increasing by 4% annually. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is one of the most used chemicals in packaging and beverage bottles. PET can wear down into microplastics, which exacerbates environmental problems.
To help alleviate plastic pollution, scientists from various institutions in Spain utilized a defense protein from Actinia fragacea, a strawberry anemone, and added a new function using computational methods. Their findings demonstrate that the created protein has a degrading efficiency of 5 to 10 times higher than the PETase enzyme available on the market. The artificial protein can also be used at room temperature, which is better than other methods that require temperatures higher than 70 °C.