The microbial colonization of plastic wastes has been extensively studied in marine environments, while studies on aged terrestrial wastes are scarce, and mostly limited to the isolation of plastic-degrading microorganisms. Here we have applied a multidisciplinary approach involving culturomics, next-generation sequencing analyses and fine-scale physico-chemical measurements to characterize plastic wastes retrieved in landfill abandoned for more than 35 years, and to assess the composition of bacterial communities thriving as biofilms on the films’ surfaces. All samples were characterized by different colors but were all of polyethylene; IR and DSC analyses identified different level of degradation, while FT-Raman spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence further assessed the degradation level and the presence of pigments. Each plastic type harbored distinct bacterial communities from the others, in agreement with the differences highlighted by the physico-chemical analyses. Furthermore, the most degraded polyethylene films were found to host a bacterial community more similar to the surrounding soil as revealed by both α- and β-diversity NGS analyses. This work confirms the novel hypothesis that different polyethylene terrestrial waste samples select for different bacterial communities, and that structure of these communities can be correlated with physico-chemical properties of the plastics, including the degradation degree.
- microbial ecology