Prospects for microbiological solutions to environmental pollution with plastics

Synthetic polymers, commonly named plastics, are among the most widespread anthropogenic pollutants of marine, limnic and terrestrial ecosystems. Disruptive effects of plastics are known to threaten wildlife and exert effects on natural food webs, but signs for and knowledge on plastic biodegradation are limited. Microorganisms are the most promising candidates for an eventual bioremediation of environmental plastics. Laboratory studies have reported various effects of microorganisms on many types of polymers, usually by enzymatic hydrolysis or oxidation. However, most common plastics have proved to be highly recalcitrant even under conditions known to favour microbial degradation. Knowledge on environmental degradation is yet scarcer. With this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge on microbiological degradation of several of the most common plastic types. Furthermore, we illustrate the analytical challenges concerning the evaluation of plastic biodegradation as well as constraints likely standing against the evolution of effective biodegradation pathways.

Martin C. Krueger, Hauke Harms, Dietmar Schlosser, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Volume 99, Issue 21, pp 8857-8874, November 2015

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