ISSN 2285-1364, ISSN CD-ROM 2285-5521, ISSN ONLINE 2285-1372, ISSN-L 2285-1364

Colonization and degradation of polyethylene composites by fungal strains isolated

Published in Scientific Bulletin. Series F. Biotechnologies, Vol. XVI
Written by Mariana CONSTANTIN, Iuliana RAUT, Gelu VASILESCU, Melania Liliana ARSENE, Luiza JECU

Polyethylene is one of the most inert plastic materials characterized by a high molecular weight, complex three dimensional structures and hydrophobic nature. These features interfere with its availability to microorganisms and cause serious environmental problems. One of the viable alternatives to accelerate the attack of microorganisms to LDPE is the addition of natural polymers; like starch, wood flour or cellulose fibers to guarantee at least a partial biodegradation. Wood flour is considered an excellent fillers for LDPE because of their low density, low cost, high strength, desirable fiber aspect ratio, flexibility during processing and biodegradability. The objective of this study is to investigate polyethylene based composites biodegradability. Several fungal strains were isolated after exposure period to soil burial tests. Strains from existing microbial collection were also tested. Polyethylene degradation ability of microorganisms was evaluated by weight loss and scanning electron microscopic (SEM) study of plastic strips after 3 months incubation in pure shake culture conditions. SEM analysis showed a thick network of fungal hyphae forming a biofilm on the surface of the plastic pieces. The colonization extent varied from strain to strain. There was observed a small difference but no significant in the weight of polyethylene composites before and after incubation with microorganisms. Strains tested are capable to form an adherent biofilm on the surface of LDPE composites. It is a slow process but these experiments give the evidences of biodegradation of LDPE composites.

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