Utilization of Locally Available Bacteria in Degradation of Plastics

L. Wanjohi, L. Mwamburi, E. Too, J. Kosgei


Polythene papers have been widely used as packaging material due to their light weight, inertness and low cost. Disposable plastic cups are produced for single use and hence constitute a major source of consumer household plastic waste. The disposal of the polythene bags and disposable plastic cups is a major environmental challenge because they are not easily degraded. An inventory was taken in Lake Nakuru to determine the biodiversity of bacteria of the alkaline waters and their potential utilization in environment restoration through degradation. Samples were collected at five points of the lake selected based on their locations, proximity to fresh water inlets and depth of the lake. The samples were collected once a month for six months in the year 2011. They were kept in a cool box under ice at 4C and transported to university of Eldoret microbiology lab. Serial dilution was carried out and culturing was done using spread plate method on nutrient agar. The cultures were incubated at 35 C for 24 hours. Sub-culturing was done to obtain pure cultures which were then isolated and identified by observing their morphological characteristics, gram staining, biochemical tests, and serotyping using Analytical Profile Index Kits. The identified bacteria species were inoculated in conical flasks that contained distilled water, inorganic nutrients and disks prepared from disposable plastic cups and polythene bags to elucidate their degradation potential. Degradation potential of the bacteria was determined by calculating the percentage weight loss of the disposable plastic cups and polythene bags disks after 90 days. Twenty one different species of bacteria were identified. The following bacteria were found to be effective in degradation of disposable plastic cups and polythene bags respectively; Sphingomonas paucimobilis (17.5%, 37.5%), Streptococcus pyogenes (11.5%, 27.0%,), Tatumela ptyseas (11.0%, 21.5%), Bacillus anthracoides (6.0%,7.5%), Chryseobacterium indologenes (3%,7.5%), Chryseobacterium meningosepticum (8%,19.5%), Pseudomonas cepacia (9.5%, 35.5%), proteus penneri (4.5%, 18%), Moraxela sp.( 6.5%,19%), Alcaligene sp.(0.5%,27%), Providencia stuarti(1.5%,5.5%) and Providencia rettgeri (5.0%,13.5%). In this study, novel bacteria included Tatumella ptyseas, Proteus penneri and Providencia stuarti. These bacteria are recommended in the degradation of disposable plastic cups and polythene bags.


Bacteria, Degradation, Disposable Plastic, Polythene


Artham, T. and Doble, M. (2008). Biodegradation of Aliphatic and Aromatic Polycarbonates. Macromol Biosci 1.

Barlaz, M. A., Ham, R. K and Schaefer, D. M. (1989). Mass-balance analysis of anaerobically decomposed refuse. J. of Environ. Eng.; 115:1088–102.

Diaz, E. (2008). Microbial Biodegradation: Genomics and Molecular Biology, 1st ed., Caister Academic Press.

Doi, Y. (1990). Microbial Polyesters. New York:” VCH Publishers;

Faudree, M. C. (1991). Relationship of Graphite/Polyimide Composites to Galvanic Processes” Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) 2: 1288–1301.

Frazer, A. C. (1994). Methylation and other transformations of aromatic compounds byacetogenicbacteria. In: Drake HL, editor. Acetogenesis. New York: Chapman & Hall; p. 445–83.

Gerischer, U. (2008). Acinetobacter Molecular Biology (1st ed.). Caister Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-904455-20-2.. (2008).

Ghazali, F. M., Rahman, R. N. Salleh, A. B. and Basri, M. (2004). Int. Biodeterior. Biodegradation.

Goldberg, D. (1995). A review of the biodegradability and utility of poly (caprolactone) J. Environ. Polym. Degrad. (1995) 3:61–8.

Gu, J. D., Ford, T. E., Mitton, D. B. and Mitchell, R. (2000).

Microbial degradation and deterioration of polymeric materials In: Revie W, editor. The Uhlig Corrosion Handbook. 2nd Edition. New York: Wiley; (2000) p. 439–60.

Gutnick, D. (2008). Potential Application of Acinetobacter in Biotechnology, Acinetobacter Molecular Biology (Gerischer U, ed.). Caister Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-904455-20-2. .

Holt, J. G. (1994). Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology. http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/boy-discovers-microbe-that-eats-plastic. Date of access 15 September 2010 8.30 am

Iwata, T. and Doi, Y. (1998). Morphology and enzymatic degradation of poly(L-lactic acid) single crystals”Macromolecules 31 : 2461-2467.

Jones, B. E., Grant, W. D., Duckworth, A. W., Schumann, P., Weiss, N. and Stackebrandt, (2005). E. Cellulomonas bogoriensis sp. nov., an alkaliphilic cellulomonad. Int. J. Syst Evol. Microbiol. 55: 1711–1714

Kairu, J. (1991). Studies of the Concentration of Organic Chlorine Pesticides and Metal Residues in Fish and Birds of Lake Nakuru, Kenya. MSc. Thesis Agricultural University, Norway.

Kathiresan, K. (2003). Polythene and plastic degrading microbes from the mangrove soil. International journal of tropical biology and conservation.

Lee, S. Y. (1996). Bacterial Polyhydroxyalkanoates. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 49: 1-1

Ma, Y., Xue, Y., Grant, W. D., Collins, N. C., Duckworth, A. W., van Steenbergen, R. P. and Jones, B.E. (2004). Alkalimonas amylolytica gen. nov. sp and Alkalimonas delamerensis gen. nov sp. nov., novel alkaliphilic bacteria from soda Lakes in China and East Africa.” Extremophiles.. 8:193-200.

Ni'matuzahroh, G., Gilewicz, M., Guiliano, M. and Bertrand, J. (1999). In-Vitro Study of Interaction between Photooxidation and Biodegradation of 2-Methylphenanthrene By Sphingomonas Sp 2MPII". Chemosphere 38 (11): 2501–2507.

Oduor, S. O. and Schagerl, M. (2007). Temporal trends of ion contents and nutrients in three Kenyan Rift Valley saline-alkaline Lakes and their influence on phytoplankton biomass. Hydrobiologia 585:59

Shristi, K., Hather, A. A. M. and Christi, K. S. (2006). Diversity and effectiveness of tropical mangrove soil microflora on the degradation of polyethylene carry bags. India.

Suyama, T., Hosoya, H., and Tokiwa, Y., “Bacterial Isolates Degrading Aliphatic Polycarbonates.” FEMS Microbiol. (1998), 161,255-261.

Tokiwa, Y. and Calabia, B. P. (2004) Degradation of microbial polyesters. Biotechnol Lett 26:1181–9.

Tokiwa, Y., Iwamoto, A., Doi, Y., Fukuda, K., (1994). Biodegradable Plastics and Polymers. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science; p. 190–198.

Villeti, M. A., Crespo, J. S., Soldi, M. S., Pires, A. T. N., Borsali, R., and Soldi, V., (2002), Thermal degradation of natural polymers. J. thermal analysis and calorimetry v. 67: 295-303.

Williams, W. D. (1996). The largest, highest and lowest Lakes of the world: Saline Lakes. Peter Kilham Memorial Lecture, Sao Paulo, 1995. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol.

Yasindi, A. W., Lynn, D. H. and Taylor, W. D. (2002). Ciliated protozoa in Lake Nakuru, a shallow alkaline-saline Lake in Kenya: Seasonal variation, potential production and role in the foodweb. Archive of fur Hydrobiologia. 154 (2): 311-325.

Yutaka, T., Buenaventurads, P., Calabia, U., Ugwu C., and Selichi, A. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. Inter. J. mole. sci. V.10: 3722-3742.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

© 2015 School of Environmental Studies all rights reserved. Permission should be sought from the publishers before any of this work or part of it is reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, microfilming and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system.