ACCELERATING INDUSTRIAL PLASTIC DEGRADATION WITH PETase
"We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to."
Plastic pollution is a large-scale environmental burden. An economy of single-use plastics, commonly made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) due to its high crystallinity and resistance to degradation, has led to the production of millions of tons of plastic that is improperly disposed of. Remarkably, an enzyme produced by Ideonella sakaiensis, termed PETase, can degrade this polymer at ambient temperatures. Combining the recent mutations derived from Austin et al. (2018) to increase the catalytic activity of PETase, our goal is to further optimize the thermostability and catalytic ability of PETase, through targeted mutagenesis, creating sequences using rational design and machine learning algorithms. With further optimization, we believe PETase may offer an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution to industrial plastic recycling efforts. Moreover, as the byproducts of PET degradation, terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol (EG), are valuable feedstocks for PET production, this approach offers the possibility of closed-loop recycling.