There might be a small yet key answer to one of most persistent problems of the world. German researchers report in the Frontiers in Microbiology journal that they are successful in characterizing and identifying a peculiar bacteria strain. This strain of bacteria has the capacity of degrading the chemical building blocks polyurethane.
As per the research findings, the bacteria can use these chemical building blocks as a single source for energy, nitrogen, and carbon. This finding now represents a vital step towards being able to reuse the previously ‘hard to recycle’ polyurethane products.
Back in 2015, there were 3.5 million tons of polyurethane products of the total plastic produced in Europe. It finds its use in almost everything ranging from refrigerators and buildings to furniture and footwear to several other applications. It is highly popular because of its lightweight nature and its flexible and insulating properties.
However, polyurethane is energy intensive and difficult to recycle product. These are thermosetting polymers and generally do not melt even after heating. Thus, the waste products generally end up in landfills. Here they emit toxic gases and chemicals that are harmful for humans as well as for the environment.
A Step Towards Solving Future Problems
Use of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to break down such hard to degrade plastics is currently an ongoing area of study. However, few researches have been as successful as this one in addressing biodegradation of polyurethane.
The German researchers have managed to isolate a bacterium Pseudomonas sp. TDA1 from a landfill site rich in brittle plastic waste. The bacterium shows promise in attacking some of the key chemical bonds that are in the polyurethane products.
The researchers believe that this is huge step towards any future studies on the Pseudomonas sp. TDA1 bacterium. They will now research on identifying the exact genes that are responsible for allowing the bacterium to break down PU’s chemical bonds.