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 Phys.org, 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.