The University of Portsmouth said the breakthrough created an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce both plastic pollution and greenhouse gases.

It said PET was the most common thermoplastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment.

But an enzyme called PETase can shorten this time to days. The new method works by combining PETase and a second enzyme called MHETase to double the speed of PET breakdown.

Engineering a connection between the two to create a ‘super-enzyme’ increased this activity by a further three times.

Research was led by Professor John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, senior research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

McGeehan said: “Gregg and I were chatting about how PETase attacks the surface of the plastics and MHETase chops things up further, so it seemed natural to see if we could use them together, mimicking what happens in nature.

“Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them, like two Pac-men joined by a piece of string.”

Orginal Source