Research in Focus: Biodegradation Of Plastic By Novel Bacterial Strains
As part of #BiofilmWeek, we’re highlighting interesting and exciting biofilm research being undertaken across our NBIC partner research institutions by early career researchers, PhD students and our Interdisciplinary Research Fellows.
We interviewed Jasmine Cutler, an NBIC BITE PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Jasmine’s current research focuses on the biodegradation of plastic by novel bacterial strains – a process which often involves formation of bacterial biofilms on the surface of the material.
Tell us about your area of research
For plastic degradation by bacteria, the attachment of the bacteria to the plastic surface is really important, especially if it’s environmental plastic, marine or plastic pollution. Understanding the way that bacteria can attach to certain plastics is really important in understanding how the degradation happens.
Many people will already know that plastic pollution is a really big problem and may have seen numerous news articles focused on marine plastic pollution and microplastic pollution. In the ocean this can cause issues with animals being caught in plastic or eating it, sometimes resulting in death. Also plastic can break down into small pieces and those can then enter the human food chain, resulting in the food we are eating containing these small pieces of plastic.
Virgin plastics derived from petrochemicals are not a renewable resource, so finding a way to sustainably recycle plastic via a method that can be repeated multiple times, or finding new materials to use is also very important. Hopefully we can address the issue of plastic pollution either through the bioremediation of plastic, or by reducing the amount of plastic which enters the environment in the first place.
How has NBIC supported you in your career so far?
Being part of the NBIC community has been really beneficial in terms of building a network with those who are biofilms experts. I attended the NBIC Edinburgh Summit earlier this year and met some very interesting people there. NBIC have also supported me in attending outreach activities and events, such as the recent New Scientist Live event in London. This was really helpful in promoting the research we are doing and also supported the development of my science communication skills.
Looking for plastic degrading bacteria at a landfill site in Nottinghamshire.
Find out more
If you are interested in learning more about this project and would like to connect with Jasmine please contact NBIC at email@example.com.
Jasmine Cutler, PhD student, University of Nottingham.