Development of tailored indigenous marine consortia for the degradation of naturally weathered polyethylene films
OPEN PloS one | 26 Aug 2017
E Syranidou, K Karkanorachaki, F Amorotti, E Repouskou, K Kroll, B Kolvenbach, PF Corvini, F Fava and N Kalogerakis
This study investigated the potential of bacterial-mediated polyethylene (PE) degradation in a two-phase microcosm experiment. During phase I, naturally weathered PE films were incubated for 6 months with the indigenous marine community alone as well as bioaugmented with strains able to grow in minimal medium with linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) as the sole carbon source. At the end of phase I the developed biofilm was harvested and re-inoculated with naturally weathered PE films. Bacteria from both treatments were able to establish an active population on the PE surfaces as the biofilm community developed in a time dependent way. Moreover, a convergence in the composition of these communities was observed towards an efficient PE degrading microbial network, comprising of indigenous species. In acclimated communities, genera affiliated with synthetic (PE) and natural (cellulose) polymer degraders as well as hydrocarbon degrading bacteria were enriched. The acclimated consortia (indigenous and bioaugmented) reduced more efficiently the weight of PE films in comparison to non-acclimated bacteria. The SEM images revealed a dense and compact biofilm layer and signs of bio-erosion on the surface of the films. Rheological results suggest that the polymers after microbial treatment had wider molecular mass distribution and a marginally smaller average molar mass suggesting biodegradation as opposed to abiotic degradation. Modifications on the surface chemistry were observed throughout phase II while the FTIR profiles of microbially treated films at month 6 were similar to the profiles of virgin PE. Taking into account the results, we can suggest that the tailored indigenous marine community represents an efficient consortium for degrading weathered PE plastics.
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