Energy, Ecology and Environment

, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 240–252 | Cite as

Cyanobacterial degradation of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) by Nostoc carneum isolated from submerged polyethylene surface in domestic sewage water

  • Pampi Sarmah
  • Jayashree RoutEmail author
Original Article


A heterocystous cyanobacterial isolate Nostoc carneum was found to be capable of degrading low-density polythene utilising it as a carbon and energy source. The structural, morphological and chemical changes of the degraded PE were monitored by Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, CHN microanalyses and tensile strength measurements. The TGA-DSC and CHN microanalyses corroborated about 3% carbon utilisation by Nostoc carneum from the PE. The higher generation time of the cyanobacterium on PE substrate vis-a-vis the biotic control augmented PE carbon utilisation by the species. The diagnostic features for alcohol and ester were observed in FT-IR and NMR spectra as the end products of biodegradation. The bond indices and enzyme activity further furnished evidence for PE degradation. Formation of holes and cavities on the surface of the PE indicated the disruption and reduction in the polyethylene integrity. The cellular constituents and enzymatic activities of the PE grown cells indicated a possible role of the enzymes in biodegradation.


Biodegradation CHN analysis Cyanobacteria Domestic sewage water FT-IR SEM 



Low-density polyethylene


Fourier transform infrared


Scanning electron microscopy


Nuclear magnetic resonance


Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen


American Public Health Association


Thermogravimetry–differential scanning calorimetry


American Society for testing and materials



The authors thank Sophisticated Analytical Instrumentation Centre (SAIC), Tezpur University, Napaam, Assam, India, for providing some instrumentation facilities. One of the author (PS) acknowledge University Grant Commission (UGC) for fellowship.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

There is no research involving human participants and or animals.


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Copyright information

© The Joint Center on Global Change and Earth System Science of the University of Maryland and Beijing Normal University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceAssam UniversitySilcharIndia

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