Mutant enzyme eats plastic bottles


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/17/mutant-enzyme-eats-plastic-bot.html


#2

Life uh finds a way.

Give nature a massive, empty niche and it will probably be filled.


#3

Go mutants?!


#4

Think ICE-9 but with everything falling apart instead of freezing


#5

I am very mixed on this, a considerable part of what makes plastic so valuable is its ability to be a biological barrier. Plastic keeps bacteria out, it keeps medical equipment sterile and creates a barrier between you and potentially infectious sources.

Breaking down plastic in nature is going to be huge for the environment, but I worry about what it can do to the plastics we rely on.


#6

This… this is the sort of recycling we need. I doubt it cares if the plastic is contaminated or whatever. Giant bio-reactor vat of this stuff the “contaminates” would probably separate out for use.


#7

I don’t think the idea is to release this stuff into the wild to clean things up. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.


#8

what could happen - mutating plastic eating enzymes - no problem

it wouldn’t mutate into anything else???


#9

When I was a kid I read a science fiction thriller about plastic-eating microbes pretty much destroying the modern world. This real-life version is not something I’d like to encounter outside of a laboratory.


#10

Damn. You got there first. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Not a sci-fi dystopia I’ve read before, the death of plastic when a mutant organism is released accidentally… Maybe not a dystopia, come to think of it.


#11

Sooo… Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac?


#12

Come to think of it, I remember writing a short story in highschool when similar news of an oil eating enzyme came out in the 90s. I included a mutant version that ate anything based on oil, i.e. plastic, asphalt, etc. and the chaos that ensued.


#13

Reminds me of a slow version of the Puppeteer’s Superconductor Plague in the Ringworld series.
Hopefully nothing will fall out of the sky.


#14

Also known as the people who invented Doctor Who’s cybermen


#15

Enzymes can be pretty specialized. It might have the unfortunate side-effect of unstitching the PET components of mixed, modified, and filled polymer objects and letting the indigestible teeny fragments float merrily away in a zillion tiny pieces even faster than they would under normal decay processes.


#16

Of course not. There is no chance that these bacteria could accidentally be released into the wild. It’s not like they mutated into existence by chance or anything. We will be totally fine.


#17

They can be, but the most powerful degradation enzymes aren’t. I believe you’re familiar with two of them, lignin peroxidase and laccase, since they come from fungi.


#18

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