German Researchers Discover Plastic Recycling Enzyme

September 2022

Scientists at the University of Leipzig have identified an enzyme, PHL7, that degrades PET plastic much more rapidly than previously believed possible. The discovery could revolutionize the recycling of PET plastic.

“Our enzyme is twice as active as the gold standard among polyester-cleaving hydrolases,” explained research team leader Christian Sonnendecker on the university website.

PHL7 is capable of breaking down PET to a rate of 90 percent within 16 hours. The process yields the constituent elements needed for new PET products, creating a closed cycle.

This method of biological recycling required temperatures of only 65 to 70 degrees – a big advantage over the high heats needed for conventional thermal recycling procedures. That should dramatically reduce the costs of biological recycling.

Christian Sonnendecker, enzyme researcher, Uni Leipzig  © Christian Sonnendecker