The Breakdown: A Comparison of Plastic Degradation by Rhodococcus rhodochrous and Penicillium chrysogenum

Allison White ’19 and Assistant Professor of Biology Teresa Bilinski wanted to expand on recent research and explore plastic degradation. Their experiment used soil incubations to compare the ability of Rhodococcus rhodochrousPenicillium chrysogenum, and the native soil microbial community to degrade two types of commonly used plastic: antimicrobial HDPE and a generic plastic used in trash bags. They hypothesized that the trash bag would degrade more quickly than the antimicrobial HDPE. They also hypothesized that all three microbial treatments would result in degradation but the rate of degradation would be faster for plastic in incubations that were inoculated with either R. rhodocochrous or P. chrysogenum.After 10 weeks, the samples were measured. The weight of the plastic did not significantly change during the incubation, however differences in surface area and texture were observed, which is evidence of microbial degradation.

Explore more of White and Bilinski’s research here.