Green Visions: "Batman and Robin" at the forefront of a new plastic recycling paradigm

Oct 14, 2020

PET (shown in yellow) is deconstructed by a two-enzyme cocktail of PETase (blue) and MHETase (gray). PETase acts upon the polymer PET to produce soluble intermediates, and MHETase cleaves one of these (MHET) to produce the building block monomers.
Credit Brandon Knott

Dr. Brandon Knott and the other members of the international team working on a better way to recycle plastics are excited about their work.

For one thing, they're trying to solve a problem that everyone "gets," more or less.

Here's the deal: when you recycle plastics these days, it's done with machines that grind them up, melt them down, and make new stuff out of them.

But just like the old days of analog videotape and sound recording, everytime you make a new copy - in this case, a new pop bottle or something out of mechanically recycled plastic - it loses quality each time.

But what if you could recycle plastic back to its original form without any loss in quality and didn't need any new petroleum, to boot?

Enter the amazing enzymes that break down plastic, by themselves or with a little help from their friends.

You can read more about the team's work here, in a article recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.