New plastic-eating bacteria detected
Polyurethane is widely applied in life, from the manufacture of building materials, shoes to the components of household appliances or wheels. This polymer is highly regarded for its lightness, insulation and versatility, but recycling it is energy-intensive. Most pu resins after use are released into landfills, where they can release a variety of carcinogenic toxins.
To solve the problem of plastic pollution, experts from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, led by hermann J. Heipieper, have found a solution from microorganisms. While surveying the community of bacteria living on plastic waste, the team identified a new strain of bacteria, called Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, that has the potential to break down the chemical bond of polyurethane.
In fact, Pseudomonas sp. TDA1 eats on essential compounds of polyurethane. “They use these compounds as a single source of carbon, nitrogen and energy,” Heipieper said in a press release. “This discovery could be a potential solution to help recycle and reuse PU plastic products.”
In addition, the new strain of bacteria is a form of narcissistic organism, meaning it can grow in conditions of physics or geochemistry so extreme that it can harm most life on Earth. Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, according to the team, is resistant to toxins.
Heipieper and his colleagues hope that decoding the genome will reveal the exoenzymes that bacteria use to trigger a biochemical reaction to break down matter. If the study is successful, scientists could “program” bacteria to increase the efficiency of polyurethane decomposition.
The details of the study were published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology on March 27.
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