A polyethylene surrogate for microbial community enrichment and characterization

Bilge Bahar Camur, Natalia Calixto Mancipe, Brett M. Barney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Plastic pollution is a vast and increasing problem that has permeated the environment, affecting all aspects of the global food web. Plastics and microplastics have spread to soil, water bodies, and even the atmosphere due to decades of use in a wide range of applications. Plastics include a variety of materials with different properties and chemical characteristics, with polyethylene being a dominant fraction. Polyethylene is also an extremely persistent compound with slow rates of photodegradation or biodegradation. In this study, we developed a method to isolate communities of microbes capable of biodegrading a polyethylene surrogate. This method allows us to study potential polyethylene degradation over much shorter time periods. Using this method, we enriched several communities of microbes that can degrade the polyethylene surrogate within weeks. We also identified specific bacterial strains with a higher propensity to degrade compounds similar to polyethylene. We provide a description of the method, the variability and efficacy of four different communities, and key strains from these communities. This method should serve as a straightforward and adaptable tool for studying polyethylene biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16658
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Environmental Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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