Earth News|Collected: Plastic-eating enzyme discovery; Berlin’s new second hand store; Plastic straw ban in England; and Modibodi ad ban reversed

Your round-up of good news for the week

A super-enzyme has been created that eats plastic six times faster than before, which could transform plastic recycling

We have an ongoing problem with plastic. By 2015, 6 billion tonnes of plastic waste had already been produced, only 9% of is has ever been recycled, 79% of it ended up in landfill or in our natural environments and 12% has been incinerated. It’s still very difficult to break down plastic bottles and recycle them into new ones, which means the precious, finite resource oil is being used to make new single use plastic bottles each year. This is inefficient, a waste of resources and not sustainable.

And that’s why this scientific discovery is such good news! Back in 2016, Japanese scientists first discovered a species of bacteria that could break down commonly used PET plastic. Now, by linking two separate enzymes that were found within this bacteria, scientists from the University of Portsmouth, UK and four US institutions, have engineered a super-enzyme that works to break down plastic six times faster than previous versions. Combining the plastic-eating enzymes with existing ones that break down natural fibres, such as cotton, could allow mixed materials to be fully recycled.

The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Berlin embraces circular economy by opening a second-hand shop within a department store

Last month, the Berlin government launched a 660 square metre department store called B-Wa(h)renhaus (which is an untranslatable pun meaning both department store and “conserving house”), in an attempt to dramatically reduce waste. The shop will be open for six months initially and is situated on the third floor of the Karstadt department store, selling second-hand, high-quality, clothing, household items, furniture, phones, computers and more. The shop also offers repair services and workshops to encourage repair and reuse.

The store is likely to be the first of its kind, with three or four re-use stores planned for launch across the city in the near future. Berlin hopes to use the stores to “anchor the re-use of used goods in urban society”, especially within sections of the public that aren’t currently much involved in the circular economy, promoting reusing and repairing goods, instead of always buying new or just throwing stuff away.

The circular economy

England bans single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds

People in England consume an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion stemmed cotton buds each year. The new law, which came into effect this week, makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items, although an exemption will allow hospitals, bars and restaurants to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them.

Facebook reverses ban on Modibodi ad

After facing significant backlash from banning a Modibodi ad, Facebook has reversed its decision, allowing the ad to be shared on its platform. The 60-second video was originally deemed to violate guidelines covering shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content. However, after “review and consultation” with its teams, Facebook has confirmed the ads will now be shown in their entirety on the social media platform.

The ad aims to break down taboos around periods and take the “stigma out of what is a perfectly natural bodily function for women” according to Kristy Chong from Modibodi. You can watch the video below.

(Editor’s note: Modibodi is an Earth Collective Approved Product – and we are huge fans, our whole team uses them. If you would like to read more about how they work and decide whether they are the right choice for you, check out this article).

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Charli Ferrand

Charli wrote her first novel at the tender age of 9, then dabbled in the idea of becoming a professional ballerina for a few years, before returning to her love of writing, acquiring a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Film & Broadcast from Cardiff University in the UK. A three-month holiday in Australia turned into a 11 year residency, during which Charli cemented her career in PR & Marketing Communications working with some of the biggest brands in the world. She also gained her citizenship, discovered her passion for sustainability and eventually ended up coming full circle, combining her professional skills with her love of the planet and oceans into her role as Editor-in-Chief of Earth Collective. A trained journalist, experienced communications professional and qualified Mental Health First Aider, Charli has her finger on the pulse of the latest political and environmental developments around the world. You can find her writing about current affairs, political activism and mental health.

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