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Can microbes degrade plastic?

Can microbes degrade plastic?
Can microbes degrade plastic?

Project BIOCLEAN carries out research into biotechnologies to degrade and detoxify plastics in marine environments, landfills and digesters until 2015.
A few years ago, a surprising observation was made which led to a fascinating research project. All started with pictures by T. Mincer/G. Proskurowski which show microbes settling in groves of the surface of ocean drifting plastic parts. This observation sparked the question if those groves were made by the organisms and if microbes would be able to digest and degrade plastics?

Since end of 2012 a European science team has formed the European funded project BIOCLEAN which uses those first evidences, tries to validate those effects and aims to develop solutions out of it. The first milestones are to identify the right combination of microbes and atmospheric degradation effects able to turn common plastics like polyethylene, polypropylene and others into non-toxic carbon dioxide and water. Once achieved, new tests will follow to take the project to a further stage. 

BIOCLEAN finally aims at developing innovative, eco-efficient pilot-scale and/or field validated biotechnological solutions for degrading (and valorizing) plastics waste in terrestrial (landfills, composting facilities) and aquatic environments. Final results are expected in 2015.

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