Plastics with embedded particles decompose in days instead of years

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

“Biodegradable” plastics exist, but they’re not so great at biodegrading. These polymers often take months or years to decompose, and even then can form potentially harmful microplastics. Now scientists have been able to speed up the process by encasing plastic-chomping enzymes in a protective coating and incorporating the resulting nanoparticles into the plastic as it’s made (Nature, 2021, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03408-3). Exposure to humidity and temperatures of 40 to 60 °C unleashes the enzymes, which decompose the polymers into monomer to trimer units in hours to days.

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