It takes about 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down in nature, but with the UMD “PETNET” team’s new technology, this time could potentially be cut to as little as 2 weeks. The team also developed an efficient and economical system to measure degradation.
News reports and environmental advocacy group websites are filled with pleas to consumers and industry to curb the use of disposable, single-use plastics that result in massive pollution and toxicity issues for the global environment. A team of 12 University of Maryland students, calling themselves PETNET, (after polyethylene terephthalate, or PET -- the world’s most commonly used plastic), recently earned a gold medal at this year’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) synthetic biology competition for their scalable, plastic bioremediation approach using a “plastic-eating enzyme” and their low-cost fluorescent biosensor system to measure PET degradation. Find the full story here.