University of Portsmouth scientists awarded £5.8m to fight plastic pollution
University of Portsmouth scientists, who have engineered an enzyme that can break down some of the world’s most commonly polluting plastics, have been awarded £5.8 million.
The funding will allow the appointment of both junior and senior researcher scientists to join the Universities newly established Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI).
The investment from the Research England Expanding Excellence Fund, coupled with significant investment by the University of Portsmouth, will speed up progress towards finding a solution to one of the world's greatest environmental challenges - plastic waste.
In April 2018, researchers led by Professor John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth and Dr Gregg Beckham at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, announced they had engineered an enzyme which could digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, returning it to its original monomers, or building blocks.
Their discovery offered the first glimmer of hope that we can take an enzyme from the natural environment and adapt it in the laboratory to tackle some of our most polluting plastics.
PET plastic is commonly used to make the 20,000 single-use plastic bottles manufactured every second worldwide. The team's discovery paved the way for a future in which PET could be infinitely recycled, re-used, and even made into higher value materials - a fundamental shift in recycling.
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