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JOURNAL ARTICLE

New perspectives in plastic biodegradation

Alex Sivan
Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2011, 22 (3): 422-6
21356588
During the past 50 years new plastic materials, in various applications, have gradually replaced the traditional metal, wood, leather materials. Ironically, the most preferred property of plastics--durability--exerts also the major environmental threat. Recycling has practically failed to provide a safe solution for disposal of plastic waste (only 5% out of 1 trillion plastic bags, annually produced in the US alone, are being recycled). Since the most utilized plastic is polyethylene (PE; ca. 140 million tons/year), any reduction in the accumulation of PE waste alone would have a major impact on the overall reduction of the plastic waste in the environment. Since PE is considered to be practically inert, efforts were made to isolate unique microorganisms capable of utilizing synthetic polymers. Recent data showed that biodegradation of plastic waste with selected microbial strains became a viable solution.

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