Synthetic polymers are ubiquitous in the modern world but pose a global environmental problem. While plastics such as poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) are highly versatile, their resistance to natural degradation presents a serious, growing risk to fauna and flora, particularly in marine environments. Here, we have characterized the 3D structure of a newly discovered enzyme that can digest highly crystalline PET, the primary material used in the manufacture of single-use plastic beverage bottles, in some clothing, and in carpets.