How will PETase’s AI-designed plastic-eating Enzymes Protect our Earth

How will PETase’s AI-designed plastic-eating Enzymes Protect our Earth

Plastics have become an integral part of our daily lives, but their widespread use comes at a cost. Petrochemical-based plastics are non-biodegradable, leading to significant environmental pollution. Over the period from 1950 to 2019, cumulative production reached an astounding 9.5 billion tonnes of plastic — more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive today. For years, scientists and environmentalists have spent years in research to get rid of the plastic. But their efforts never paid off.

However, recent advancements in enzyme technology offer hope for a more sustainable future. In this blog, we’ll explore the fascinating world of plastic-eating enzymes and their potential impact on environmental protection.

The Problem with Plastics

Plastics, composed of silicon, chloride, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen, are durable and versatile materials. Unfortunately, their slow natural degradation leads to a massive accumulation in landfills and aquatic ecosystems. Approximately 350 million tons of plastics are produced worldwide each year, with only about 2% being recycled. The rest either ends up in landfills or is incinerated, releasing toxic compounds into the enviornment. To give you a glimpse of the rising problem:

garbage on body of water

The environmental impact of heavy plastic usage is going to be worse by the day:

  • The slow degradation of plastics leads to massive accumulation in landfills and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Approximately 79% of plastic waste ends up in landfills or the natural environment, causing harm to ecosystems and wildlife.
  • If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 million tonnes  of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.

Enter the Plastic-Eating Enzyme

Researchers have developed an enzyme capable of breaking down environmentally damaging plastics in just a matter of hours, rather than centuries. This breakthrough enzyme targets polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which constitutes 12% of global waste. Through a circular process, the enzyme efficiently breaks down PET polymers, offering a promising solution to plastic pollution.

FAST-PETase: A Game-Changer

The enzyme, known as FAST-PETase, was engineered using machine learning strategies. It exhibits the highest PET hydrolytic activity among known enzymes and their variants. FAST-PETase can degrade a broad range of plastics, making it a powerful tool for recycling efforts. But how does it work?

  1. Hydrolysis: FAST-PETase breaks down PET into its monomers through hydrolysis. This process involves breaking the chemical bonds within the plastic, converting it into smaller, more manageable components.
  2. Circular Economy Approach: Once the PET is broken down, the resulting monomers can be re-polymerized into clean plastics. This closed-loop circular economy approach minimizes waste and reduces our reliance on virgin plastic production.

Sustainability and Environmental Protection

The implications of FAST-PETase extend beyond recycling. By efficiently degrading plastics, we can:

  • Reduce Landfill Waste: Billions of tons of plastic waste could be eliminated from landfills, preventing further environmental harm.
  • Lower Carbon Footprint: Recycling plastics at the molecular level reduces the need for new plastic production, ultimately lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Protect Ecosystems: Preventing plastic accumulation in oceans, rivers, and forests safeguards ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.


Plastic-eating enzymes represent a remarkable step towards sustainability. As researchers continue to refine these enzymes and explore other plastic-degrading solutions, we move closer to a cleaner, greener planet. By embracing innovative technologies and promoting responsible plastic use, we can protect our environment for generations to come.

Remember, every small action counts. Whether it’s recycling, supporting eco-friendly products, or advocating for policy changes, we all play a role in creating a more sustainable world. Let’s work together to turn the tide against plastic pollution! 🌎♻️



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