University's plastic research features in BBC Earthshot Prize series

Our pioneering research into a plastic-eating enzyme featured in the BBC series The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet.

Led by HRH Prince William and David Attenborough, the Earthshot prize intends to incentivise change and innovation to tackle the environmental challenges facing our planet, such as plastic pollution and the climate crisis.

Professor John McGeehan, Director of the University’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation, features in the ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ episode, which aired on BBC One on Wednesday 13 October at 10.30pm.

The film puts Portsmouth at the heart of the revolution on plastic waste and explains how we’re looking to nature to find solutions.

In 2016, scientists discovered a naturally-occurring enzyme in a Japanese rubbish dump that had evolved to eat polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have since collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado to engineer an enzyme solution that can digest plastics up to six times faster.

The discovery offers 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. Our research has scope to transform the recycling industry and paves the way for a future in which PET would be infinitely recycled.

You can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer. Our segment starts at 34:15. 

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