Biological degradation of plastics: a comprehensive review

Biotechnol Adv. May-Jun 2008;26(3):246-65. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2007.12.005. Epub 2008 Jan 26.


Lack of degradability and the closing of landfill sites as well as growing water and land pollution problems have led to concern about plastics. With the excessive use of plastics and increasing pressure being placed on capacities available for plastic waste disposal, the need for biodegradable plastics and biodegradation of plastic wastes has assumed increasing importance in the last few years. Awareness of the waste problem and its impact on the environment has awakened new interest in the area of degradable polymers. The interest in environmental issues is growing and there are increasing demands to develop material which do not burden the environment significantly. Biodegradation is necessary for water-soluble or water-immiscible polymers because they eventually enter streams which can neither be recycled nor incinerated. It is important to consider the microbial degradation of natural and synthetic polymers in order to understand what is necessary for biodegradation and the mechanisms involved. This requires understanding of the interactions between materials and microorganisms and the biochemical changes involved. Widespread studies on the biodegradation of plastics have been carried out in order to overcome the environmental problems associated with synthetic plastic waste. This paper reviews the current research on the biodegradation of biodegradable and also the conventional synthetic plastics and also use of various techniques for the analysis of degradation in vitro.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control
  • Plastics / chemistry*
  • Plastics / classification
  • Plastics / metabolism*
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polymers / classification
  • Polymers / metabolism


  • Plastics
  • Polymers