Scientists have enriched expanded polystyrene waste from a beach in Ireland to isolate a bacterium shown to contain three enzymes that could break down polyester. The team, from Brunel University London, is studying microorganisms that can degrade plastic, in the hope the microorganisms or their plastic-degrading enzymes can be used to manage the growing plastic waste problem.

Their research paper ‘Enrichment of native plastic‐associated biofilm communities to enhance polyester degrading activity’, is set to publish in Environmental Microbiology. “If microorganisms can degrade plastic that cannot be recycled, this will reduce the amount of plastic that is incinerated and landfilled,” said corresponding author Dr Ronan McCarthy.

The team collected native bacterial communities from environmental waste plastic and then conducted an enrichment experiment to find communities that had improved plastic degrading abilities after only having the plastic waste as a carbon source. They observed a change in community composition, and identified a strain of Pseudomonas stutzeri that had three putative enzymes that could have a role in polyester degradation.

Source: Brunel University

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