London, Apr 17: Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.
The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug, according to a report carried by The Guardian.
The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”
The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.
“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”
About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest parts, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood. “It is incredibly resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific,” said McGeehan. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”
However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be turned into opaque fibres for clothing or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a way to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.
“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap,” said McGeehan. “It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.”
The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, began by determining the precise structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10bn times brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms.
The structure of the enzyme looked very similar to one evolved by many bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used as a protective coating by plants. But when the team manipulated the enzyme to explore this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.
“It is a modest improvement – 20% better – but that is not the point,” said McGeehan. “It’s incredible because it tells us that the enzyme is not yet optimised. It gives us scope to use all the technology used in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme.”
Industrial enzymes are widely used in, for example, washing powders and biofuel production, They have been made to work up to 1,000 times faster in a few years, the same timescale McGeehan envisages for the plastic-eating enzyme. A patent has been filed on the specific mutant enzyme by the Portsmouth researchers and those from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
One possible improvement being explored is to transplant the mutant enzyme into an “extremophile bacteria” that can survive temperatures above the 70C melting point of PET – the plastic is likely to degrade 10-100 times faster when molten.
Earlier work had shown that some fungi can break down PET plastic, which makes up about 20% of global plastic production. But bacteria are far easier to harness for industrial uses.
Other types of plastic could be broken down by bacteria currently evolving in the environment, McGeehan said: “People are now searching vigorously for those.” PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating bugs might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.
“I think [the new research] is very exciting work, showing there is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem,” said Oliver Jones, a chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and not part of the research team.
“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” he said. “There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable. [But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction.”
Prof Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester in the UK, agreed the enzyme could be useful but added: “A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem – waste – at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions.”
Admin wants an elected Govt to take over soon: Guv Malik
Inaugurates phase-II of JCRB flyover, apologizes over highway ban
Srinagar, May 22: Governor Satya pal Malik on Wednesday said that his administration wants an elected government to take over in Jammu and Kashmir soon.
However, he also apologized to the people for the restrictions imposed on civilian movement on Srinagar-Jammu highway twice a week.
Talking to the reporters after inaugurating the second phase of Jahangir Chowk-Ram Bagh flyover here, Governor said that they (administration) want an elected government to take over the State soon.
He was reacting to a query about some officials within his administration were not keen on transfer of power to an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, he said that the call for the elections has to be taken by Election Commission. “We want this (President’s Rule) to end at an earliest and an elected government to take over the State,” he said.
Moreover, Governor refused to talk over the Budgam Chopper incident.
Nonetheless, Governor apologized for the restrictions imposed on civilian movement on Srinagar-Jammu highway, saying that ban was imposed in ‘national interest’.
“I apologise to the people for inconvenience they faced due to restrictions imposed on highway,” Governor said, adding that all the restrictions will be lifted from May 27, 2019.Recently, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also said a decision on holding assembly elections in the state was the prerogative of the Election Commission but indicated a decision could be announced after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.
Jammu and Kashmir was placed under Governor’s Rule on June 19, 2018 after the PDP-BJP coalition government fell as the BJP decided to pull out of the alliance.
The state assembly was kept in suspended animation to allow for the possibility of any new combination of parties to form a government in the state.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti supported by the National Conference and the Congress staked claim for government formation on 21 November, 2018.
Within minutes, People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone, who had just two MLAs, also staked claim for government formation.
The governor decided to dissolve the assembly on the grounds that he wanted to prevent horse-trading.
The state was brought under President’s Rule on December 19, 2018 for a period of six months as elections could not be held within six months of imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state.
The President’s Rule will have to be extended again on June 19, 2019 as assembly elections have not been held so far. The order for extending President’s rule will have to be ratified by Parliament.
Earlier he dedicated the second phase of the Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover today to commuters.
Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, Sh. K.K. Sharma, K. Skandan- Advisors to Governor; BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Umang Narula, Principal Secretary to Governor; Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary Planning, Development and Monitoring; Baseer Khan, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir; Junaid Azim Mattu, Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation; Dr. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar; Sh. Raghav Langer, CEO ERA; and various senior officers were present on the occasion.
Governor congratulated the executing agencies and observed that this stretch of 1.04 km would provide much awaited relief to commuters from Rambagh to Alochi Bagh and regulate traffic at Rambagh, Solina, Alochi Bagh and on the Rambagh Bridge.
Pertinent to mention that the third and last phase of the flyover is expected to be completed by June end. Once completed, the 2.4 kilometer flyover with six access ramps at Jehangir Chowk, Gogji Bagh, Alochi Bagh, Rambagh, Natipora and Barzulla, will substantially decongest city traffic and reduce travel time between Jehangir Chowk and Rambagh from about 45 minutes to about 2.5 minutes.
Directs release of last month’s pending wages during Ramadan
Srinagar, May 22: The issue of pending wages of casual/daily rated workers and other categories of employees in certain departments was brought to the notice of the Governor during the meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC) held today in Civil Secretariat, Srinagar. The Governor was informed that these workers have been put to hardship during the holy month of Ramadhan.
The Governor has directed the release of last month’s wages in respect of the casual/daily wagers and salaries of other categories of employees working in different departments who could not receive the same so far.
The Governor has asked the Advisors to oversee that wages are released to these workers by their departments by 31.05.2019. The Finance Department will issue necessary sanctions, wherever, required.
‘The Real Kashmir’ movie to be screened at Cannes Ad Film Festival
Srinagar, May 22: History is in the making as Real Kashmir Football Club (FC) is all set to make a debut at the Cannes Ad Film Festival.
Thanks to Cheil Worldwide India, `The Real Kashmir’ will be featured in the Cannes to create a splash in the world of cinema.
“For seven decades, the world has seen only one side of Kashmir. As ‘Sports has the power to change lives’ as its driving philosophy, Adidas partnered with Real Kashmir FC, a rising football club from the strife-torn region, and decided to change the negative perception with which the world sees Kashmir”, said Cheil Worldwide India.
Cheil noted that they told their story across different mediums to create a brand new positive lens that would enable the world to see TheRealKashmir. “We started with a 2 minute long film based on the true story of the club and their rise to the big leagues of India. We partnered with a leading Kashmiri newspaper to reorganize its news sections by bringing the sports page in front instead of the regular cover story of negativity. Then, we organized a photo exhibition in collaboration with the renowned street photographer, Prashant Godbole, showcasing Kashmir through the positive lens of football”, Cheil said.
In fact there are many firsts associated with the Real Kashmir FC. It became the first local football club to hire a former famous Scottish player David Robertson to coach the youngsters. David was playing for Rangers FC and Leeds United before taking up the coaching assignments. Established in 2016, the Real Kashmir FC is only club from Kashmir to have played in Scotland.
In their debut season in the highly competitive I League Real Kashmir FC finished third on the table, and on the way beating power houses such as Mohun Bagan and eventual champions Chennai City FC.
Real Kashmir FC also had huge attendance in all home games played at the TRC astro-turf with an average attendance of 25000. In last I League also saw the first ever match played in snow when RKFC took and defeated Gokulam Kerala FC.
The Real Kashmir FC is like a mini-world with players of different states and nations proudly wearing the colours of this big family.
“This is dizzy stuff! @realkashmirfc to be featured at Cannes! Hope that fans & people celebrate & acknowledge the achievement of this bunch of boys going where none from Kashmir has ever gone amidst huge adversity and strife. Wonderful! @Festival_Cannes”, tweeted Haseeb Drabu, former finance minister.
Man-animal conflict: Mob beats three-month-old bear cub to death in South Kashmir
Srinagar, May 22: A heart-wrenching incident of a three-month-old black bear cub mercilessly beaten to death by a jeering mob in south Kashmir has sparked a massive outrage across the valley.
The incident occurred on Tuesday when a wild black bear cub strayed into the habitation in the Zungalpora village of Kulgam district in South Kashmir.
A 2.20 minute video showing a huge mob armed with sticks jeering and encircling the bear cub before thrashing and choking it to death. Mob used ropes and jute-bags to capture the cub even as some people beat the animal ruthlessly before it was captured only to die later. The bear cub was seen limping and trying to escape, but the mob was ruthlessly pounding on the animal.
Wild Life Warden of Anantnag Zone Intisar Suhail said they have lodged an FIR and police has also taken a cognizance of the matter. “This cub was born in February this year. They (mob) had caught hold of bear somehow. Before our team could reached there, they had killed the animal. They insisted them to return but it was already dead”, he said.
Wildlife department has conducted the postmortem of the cub and they are waiting for the report. “It was strangulated to death. It had strayed into human habitation. We have identified one person who was the main instigator. We will submit the report to police”, said Intisar.
This is the second such incident in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 12 days. On May 10, a hapless brown bear slipped into deep stream after being chased and stoned by a mob on a steep mountain ridge in Drass area of Kargil district in Ladakh division.
“We are very sad and unhappy to see what is happening around. The animals are not entering into our habitat but we are encroaching their territory. Our wasteland have been encroached and sold. Wasteland used to be a barrier between these animals and forests, and villages. But we have encroached and sold them”, said Aaliya Mir, Head of Wildlife SOS, J&K Chapter
Mir pitched for creating awareness among the people to avoid the man animal conflict in Kashmir. “There is a need for awareness. We have to live with animals and we need to learn to coexist with these species. We need to understand the reasons for this conflict. Habitation degradation, fragmentation, change of land use pattern, climatic factors and even political reasons are leading to his conflict”, she said.