Microbial strategies for degradation of microplastics generated from COVID-19 healthcare waste

Satarupa Dey, Uttpal Anand, Vineet Kumar, Sunil Kumar, Mimosa Ghorai, Arabinda Ghosh, Nishi Kant, S. Suresh, Sayan Bhattacharya, Elza Bontempi, Sartaj Ahmad Bhat, Abhijit Dey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


COVID-19 pandemic has led to the generation of massive plastic wastes, comprising of onetime useable gloves, masks, tissues, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Recommendations for the employ of single-use disposable masks made up of various polymeric materials like polyethylene, polyurethane, polyacrylonitrile, and polypropylene, polystyrene, can have significant aftermath on environmental, human as well as animal health. Improper disposal and handling of healthcare wastes and lack of proper management practices are creating serious health hazards and an extra challenge for the local authorities designated for management of solid waste. Most of the COVID-19 medical wastes generated are now being treated by incineration which generates microplastic particles (MPs), dioxin, furans, and various toxic metals, such as cadmium and lead. Moreover, natural degradation and mechanical abrasion of these wastes can lead to the generation of MPs which cause a serious health risk to living beings. It is a major threat to aquatic lives and gets into foods subsequently jeopardizing global food safety. Moreover, the presence of plastic is also considered a threat owing to the increased carbon emission and poses a profound danger to the global food chain. Degradation of MPs by axenic and mixed culture microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, microalgae etc. can be considered an eco-sustainable technique for the mitigation of the microplastic menace. This review primarily deals with the increase in microplastic pollution due to increased use of PPE along with different disinfection methods using chemicals, steam, microwave, autoclave, and incineration which are presently being employed for the treatment of COVID-19 pandemic-related wastes. The biological treatment of the MPs by diverse groups of fungi and bacteria can be an alternative option for the mitigation of microplastic wastes generated from COVID-19 healthcare waste.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114438
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • COVID-19 medical waste
  • Environment pollution
  • Incineration
  • Microplastic
  • Microplastic degrading microorganisms
  • Polypropylene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Biochemistry


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