Super-Enzyme Could Help Solve Fashion’s Waste Problem

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 months ago | News

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A super-enzyme that degrades plastic six times faster than previous incarnations could help to solve the fashion industry’s waste problem.

The super-enzyme is derived from bacteria that has naturally evolved to degrade plastic which was discovered at a waste site in Japan in 2016. It was developed at the University of Portsmouth in the UK in late 2020 by linking two separate enzymes from the plastic-eating bacteria together and discovering that, when linked, they break down plastic six times faster than when working alone.

The team developing the super-enzyme are speaking with fashion companies about combining the super-enzyme with existing ones that degrade natural fibres to allow mixed fabrics to be fully recycled. “Mixed fabrics [of polyester and cotton] are really tricky to recycle. We’ve been speaking to some of the big fashion companies that produce these textiles, because they’re really struggling at the moment,” explains Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK.

Material blends are currently not recyclable, due to the difficulties in separating the different fibres from each other. This is a huge problem as the majority of clothing produced today is made from material blends. On top of that fashion’s overarching waste issue is monumental. In Australia, we send 6,000kg of clothing to landfill every 10 minutes, and globally an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created each year – the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up in landfill every second.

We look forward to this super-enzyme helping to solve some of fashion’s waste problem, particularly with regards to plastic materials and blended materials. But for the fashion industry to be sustainable for the people who make our clothes and for the planet, it’s also important that the industry produces less and we consume less. In the words of Vivienne Westwood: “buy less, choose well, make it last.”

Via the Guardian, Business Insider, the ABC, and the BBC.

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