"This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics," co-author John McGeehan said in a statement.
The scientists said PET can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. The chemicals can seep into the soil, affecting the groundwater and infecting drinking water.
While the analysts called their discovery a “modest” improvement, they hope to continue their investigations to improve the enzyme with the help of protein tools. They said they believe their work will be used to industrially break down plastics in a fraction of the time.
“We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem,” McGeehan said, “but the scientific community who ultimately created these ‘wonder-materials’ must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions.”