Scientists have developed a mutant bacterial enzyme that is able to break down plastic in hours and enables high-quality recycling as well.

The technology we have today is limited to using recycled plastic for sweaters, sleeping bags, jackets, etc. However, this enzyme that was originally discovered in a heap of decomposed leaves eight years ago is able to reduce plastic to simple chemical elements. This makes it possible to easily create new food-grade plastic out of recycled plastic

Work on this project led by Professor Alain Marty and his team of scientists began by screening 100,000 micro-organisms for potential candidates including the aforementioned decomposed leaf bug. The organism showed great promise and was able to break down all sorts of plastics including a variety of variables.

The team used the enzyme to break down tonnes of plastic bottles which were then degraded by 90% within 10 hours. They were able to produce high-quality food-grade bottles out of it as well.

Carbios, the French company behind this discovery says that they are aiming for large scale industrial recycling in 5 years. They’ve already partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal for this project. Carbios will be working closely with these companies to further advance research and development.