Whilst many households are trying their best to ‘do the right thing’ the sad fact remains that only a fraction of our household recycling is fully recycled. For example, In America, only 6 per cent of plastic bottles made from PET (a widely used plastic) are recycled back into bottles. Most become lower-grade plastic products that are far harder to recycle. In most cases, they are incinerated or buried in a landfill or worse still end up in our oceans polluting the aquatic eco-system and harming its inhabitants. Furthermore, there is a cruel irony in recycling that can burn more fossils fuels than the original production.
So what are we to do?
Fortunately, science may have found a way in the shape of a clever Enzyme that has developed an appetite for your plastic waste. Headed up by Professor John McGeehan and his team at The Centre for Enzyme Innovation at Portsmouth University they are developing molecules that speed up the chemical reactions to allow this enzyme to ‘eat’ PET and reducing it to liquid form. And it gets better because the liquid can then be used to make most plastic products including higher grade/quality materials such as fibreglass. Mc Geehan says “The process could drastically reduce the need to produce fossil fuels”. “Making enzymes is cheap and easy, it is a process used to create products ranging from beer to washing powder”. “Traditional plastic recycling requires very high temperatures – typically 500ºC – but with our process, you can simply grind up the plastic and mix the grounds with the powdered enzymes in a giant vat and it starts to work”. The fibreglass and carbon fibre can then be upcycled from the recycled plastic is 10 times more valuable than PET.