Meet John and Rosie, fighting plastic pollution with proteins – Unfolded

It all started with an email.

The world produces around 400m tonnes of plastic waste each year. Much of it ends up in landfill; a significant portion is polluting the world’s oceans. Conventional plastic recycling only degrades the material – in fact, most plastic items never fully disappear.

John McGeehan, Rosie Graham, and their colleagues at the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, are developing a different solution: a fully circular plastic economy, using enzymes to break plastic polymers down so they can be 100% recycled back to their initial state – or even upcycling degraded material back to the quality of virgin plastic.

As part of Unfolded, a series documenting the scientists using AlphaFold, we met John and Rosie at their labs in Portsmouth to find out how a chance email has accelerated this work.

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