Fungal bioremediation of polyethylene : challenges and perspectives

Cowan, A.R., Costanzo, C.M., Benham, R., Loveridge, E.J. and Moody, S.C. (2022) Fungal bioremediation of polyethylene : challenges and perspectives. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 132(1), pp. 78-89. ISSN (print) 1365-2672


Plastics have become ubiquitous in both their adoption as materials and as environmental contaminants. Widespread pollution of these versatile, man-made, and largely petroleum-derived polymers has resulted from their long-term mass production, inappropriate disposal, and inadequate end of life management. Polyethylene (PE) is at the forefront of this problem, accounting for one third of plastic demand in Europe in part due to its extensive use in packaging (European Parliament, 2020). Current recycling and incineration processes do not represent sustainable solutions to tackle plastic waste, especially once it becomes littered, and the development of new waste-management and remediation technologies are needed. Mycoremediation (fungal-based biodegradation) of PE has been the topic of several studies over the last two decades. The utility of these studies is limited by an inconclusive definition of biodegradation and a lack of knowledge regarding the biological systems responsible. This review highlights relevant features of fungi as potential bioremediation agents, before discussing the evidence for fungal biodegradation of both high- and low-density PE. An up-to-date perspective on mycoremediation as a future solution to PE waste is provided. [Abstract copyright: This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.]

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