Bacteria Found to Break Down Plastic

Maxwell Bernstein | April 3, 2020

Researchers in Germany published new findings in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that open up the possibilities of using biodegradation on hard-to-recycle materials to reduce plastic waste. 

The German scientists discovered a strain of bacteria that has the capability to break down chemicals in plastics called polyurethanes. Polyurethane foams can be found in mattresses, car parts, spandex clothing, shoes, and much more. 

The bacteria, Pseudomonas putida, fed on a specific polyurethane called polyurethane diol, a material that is often used to create coatings and adhesives that prevent corrosion. 

According to, polyurethanes are difficult to break down since they are temperature resistant and difficult to melt. The difficulty in recycling these plastics causes them to build up and sit in landfills where they end up releasing toxic chemicals; some of which cause cancer. 

Taking the trash out of landfills – Iowa City businessmen expand green market

The Hamburg Inn is a local restaurant that uses Greenway products. Photo by Elizabeth Beers, Flickr

Three Iowa City residents founded Greenway Bioplastics, a company that creates biodegradable tableware, to-go containers and more in an effort to keep waste from piling up and make some green.

The Des Moines Register reported on the efforts of Hicham Elhani, Can Dogan and Aziz Boussrhane, who have established a for-profit business that helps locals be more environmentally friendly.  Greenway is already working with seven local businesses and is looking to expand.

“Our aim is for nothing to hit the landfill, basically, and for it to be used another way,” Dogan said. Continue reading