Saturday 30 May 2020

Plastic eating bacterium offers pollution hope

German scientists have found a small solution to this big problem – plastic-eating bacteria.
This newly identified strain of Pseudomonas bacteria was discovered by a team consisting of researchers from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Leipzig, Germany), Freiberg University of Mining and Technology (Germany) and Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (Braunschweig, Germany), who have demonstrated its ability to break down polyurethane, a toxic type of plastic that is particularly hard to recycle.

In 2015 alone, polyurethane accounted for 3.5 million tons of the plastic produced in Europe. Its lightweight, insulating and flexible properties make it suitable for use in many products, from shoes and refrigerators to kitchen sponges. However, it’s incredibly difficult and energy-intensive to recycle, so most ends up on landfill sites where it releases toxic, often carcinogenic, chemicals.

Most bacteria are unable to withstand the toxic fumes released by the plastic, but, as demonstrated in a recent study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, this newly discovered strain is able to not only withstand and survive in the harsh environment, but also degrade some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane and use these for energy.

For further details, see Biotechniques:  

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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