Synergistic effect of calcium stearate and photo treatment on the rate of biodegradation of low density polyethylene spent saline vials

D Carol, S Karpagam, S J Kingsley, S Vincent
Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2012, 50 (7): 497-501
The biodegradation of spent saline bottles, a low density polyethylene product (LDPE) by two selected Arthrobacter sp. under in vitro conditions is reported. Chemical and UV pretreatment play a vital role in enhancing the rate of biodegradation. Treated LDPE film exhibits a higher weight loss and density when compared to untreated films. Arthrobacter oxydans and Arthrobacter globiformis grew better in medium containing pretreated film than in medium containing untreated film. The decrease in density and weight loss of LDPE was also more for pretreated film when compared to untreated film indicating the affect of abiotic treatment on mechanical properties of LDPE. The decrease in the absorbance corresponding to carbonyl groups and double bonds that were generated during pretreatment suggest that some of the double bonds were cut by Arthrobacter species. Since Arthrobacter sp. are capable of degrading urea, splitting of urea group were also seen in FTIR spectrum indicating the evidence of biodegradation after microbial incubation. The results indicated that biodegradation rate could be enhanced by exposing LDPE to calcium stearate (a pro-oxidant) which acts as an initiator for the oxidation of the polymers leading to a decrease of molecular weight and formation of hydrophilic group. Therefore, the initial step for biodegradation of many inert polymers depends on a photo-oxidation of those polymers. The application in sufficient details with improved procedures utilizing recombinant microorganism with polymer degradation capacity can lead to a better plastic waste management in biomedical field. The present plastic disposal trend of waste accumulation can be minimized with this promising eco-friendly technique.

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