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Microbial Degradation of Polyethylene: Recent Progress and Challenges

  • Shiv Shankar
  • Shailja Singh
  • Anuradha Mishra
  • Manju Sharma
  • Shikha
Chapter
Part of the Microorganisms for Sustainability book series (MICRO, volume 10)

Abstract

Polythene or polyethylene is the most commonly used polymer for the manufacturing of geomembranes, plastic bags, containers, bottles, and plastic films. The main properties of the plastics suited for its application include durability, inertness, light weight, flexibility, and low cost. Over the last three decades, the indiscriminate use of the polyethylene in transportation, packaging operations, agriculture, and industry has increased the problem of its accumulation in soil sediments and aqueous streams. Accumulation of polyethylene has emerged as a significant environmental issue nowadays. The improper disposal of solid waste containing plastic has increased the extent of the problem manifold. Used plastic packing materials and improperly disposed plastic bags prevent the entry of water and air into the earth, thereby causing depletion of groundwater and negative impacts on soil fauna. Adverse biochemical effects are caused to soil and water fauna upon ingestion of these toxic compounds. Upon unintentional ingestion, polythene causes intestinal blockage in aquatic biota like fishes, sea turtles, and seabirds. Existing conventional physical and chemical methods for the disposal of polyethylene are costly and result in formation of toxic compounds. Biodegradation of plastic is proposed as a more environmentally sound technology for disposal of plastic waste as compared to its recycling, incineration, and landfilling. In the light of the aforesaid context, the present chapter is an attempt to highlight various issues of microbial degradation of plastic, viz., general chemistry of polyethylene, its classification, role of microbes and their enzyme systems in degradation of polyethylene, and stages and obstacles in microbial degradation of the polyethylene.

Keywords

Microbial degradation Polyethylene Progress Challenges Biodegradation 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiv Shankar
    • 1
  • Shailja Singh
    • 2
  • Anuradha Mishra
    • 3
  • Manju Sharma
    • 1
  • Shikha
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, School of Vocational Studies and Applied SciencesGautam Budhha University (A State University)Greater NoidaIndia
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ScienceBaba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (A Central University)LucknowIndia
  3. 3.Department of Applied Chemistry, School of Vocational Studies and Applied SciencesGautam Buddha University (A State University)Greater NoidaIndia

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