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Simple accidents can have great impacts. A few years ago, a bacteria was discovered that evolved to eat plastic. It was seen as a way to increase the breakdown of plastics in landfills. While studying the bacteria, researchers replicated the enzyme, made a mistake, and created a more powerful and more useful version of the enzyme. Not only does the enzyme break down the plastic quicker, it also does so in a way that can break it down to its constituent particles allowing the plastic to be reused in clear plastic water bottles. One of the issues with clear plastic has been its requirement to use new oil. Opaque plastic could use recycled plastic, but it couldn’t be made clear. This new process improves the recycling of both types of plastic, and reducing the need for new oil. The discovery is so new and unexpected that the full implications and effectiveness have not been determined. If it works, landfills can be reduced and possibly mined, more plastic can be recycled, and less oil needs to be extracted and refined.

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