Hints at the Applicability of Microalgae and Cyanobacteria for the Biodegradation of Plastics

Giovanni Davide Barone*, Damir Ferizović, Antonino Biundo, Peter Lindblad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Massive plastic accumulation has been taking place across diverse landscapes since the 1950s, when large-scale plastic production started. Nowadays, societies struggle with continuously increasing concerns about the subsequent pollution and environmental stresses that have accompanied this plastic revolution. Degradation of used plastics is highly time-consuming and causes volumetric aggregation, mainly due to their high strength and bulky structure. The size of these agglomerations in marine and freshwater basins increases daily. Exposure to weather conditions and environmental microflora (e.g., bacteria and microalgae) can slowly corrode the plastic structure. As has been well documented in recent years, plastic fragments are widespread in marine basins and partially in main global rivers. These are potential sources of negative effects on global food chains. Cyanobacteria (e.g., Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, and Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942), which are photosynthetic microorganisms and were previously identified as blue-green algae, are currently under close attention for their abilities to capture solar energy and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide for the production of high-value products. In the last few decades, these microorganisms have been exploited for different purposes (e.g., biofuels, antioxidants, fertilizers, and ‘superfood’ production). Microalgae (e.g., Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and Phaeodactylum tricornutum) are also suitable for environmental and biotechnological applications based on the exploitation of solar light. Can photosynthetic bacteria and unicellular eukaryotic algae play a role for further scientific research in the bioremediation of plastics of different sizes present in water surfaces? In recent years, several studies have been targeting the utilization of microorganisms for plastic bioremediation. Among the different phyla, the employment of wild-type or engineered cyanobacteria may represent an interesting, environmentally friendly, and sustainable option.

Translated title of the contributionAndeutung der Anwendbarkeit von Mikroalgen und Cyanobakterien zur Biodegradition von Plastic
Original languageEnglish
Article number10449
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020


  • plastic accumulation
  • microplastics
  • bioremediation
  • cyanobacteria
  • microalgae
  • Plastic accumulation
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Environment
  • Microalgae
  • Microplastics
  • Bioremediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Pollution
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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