New perspectives in plastic biodegradation
During the past 50 years new plastic materials, in various applications, have gradually replaced the traditional metal, wood, leather materials. Ironically, the most preferred property of plastics – durability – exerts also the major environmental threat. Recycling has practically failed to provide a safe solution for disposal of plastic waste (only 5% out of 1 trillion plastic bags, annually produced in the US alone, are being recycled). Since the most utilized plastic is polyethylene (PE; ca. 140 million tons/year), any reduction in the accumulation of PE waste alone would have a major impact on the overall reduction of the plastic waste in the environment.Since PE is considered to be practically inert, efforts were made to isolate unique microorganisms capable of utilizing synthetic polymers. Recent data showed that biodegradation of plastic waste with selected microbial strains became a viable solution.
Research highlights► The main hazard of plastic pollution is its accumulation in the food chain. ► Extracellular laccase exerts biodegradation of polyethylene. ► Cell surface hydrophobicity correlates with biofilm formation and biodegradation.
Journal: Current Opinion in Biotechnology - Volume 22, Issue 3, June 2011, Pages 422–426