This work sheds light on the physicochemical changes of naturally weathered polymer surfaces along with changes of polymer buoyancy due to biofilm formation and degradation processes. To support the degradation hypothesis, a microcosm experiment was conducted where a mixture of naturally weathered plastic pieces was incubated with an indigenous pelagic community. A series of analyses were employed in order to describe the alteration of the physicochemical characteristics of the polymer (FTIR, SEC and GPC, sinking velocity)as well as the biofilm community (NGS). At the end of phase II, the fraction of double bonds in the surface of microbially treated PE films increased while changes were also observed in the profile of the PS films. The molecular weight of PE pieces increased with incubation time reaching the molecular weight of the virgin pieces (230,000 g mol−1)at month 5 but the buoyancy displayed no difference throughout the experimental period. The number-average molecular weight of PS pieces decreased (33% and 27% in INDG and BIOG treatment respectively), implying chain scission; accelerated (by more than 30%)sinking velocities compared to the initial weathered pieces were also measured for PS films with biofilm on their surface. The orders Rhodobacterales, Oceanospirillales and Burkholderiales dominated the distinct platisphere communities and the genera Bacillus and Pseudonocardia discriminate these assemblages from the planktonic counterpart. The functional analysis predicts overrepresentation of adhesive cells carrying xenobiotic and hydrocarbon degradation genes. Taking these into account, we can suggest that tailored marine consortia have the ability to thrive in the presence of mixtures of plastics and participate in their degradation.
Syranidou, E., Karkanorachaki, K., Amorotti, F., Avgeropoulos, A., Kolvenbach, B., Zhou, N. Y., … Kalogerakis, N. (2019). Biodegradation of mixture of plastic films by tailored marine consortia. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 375, 33–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2019.04.078