Effects of micro-sized biodegradable plastics on Microcystis aeruginosa

Jee Young Kim, Ka Young Kim, Woo Shik Jung, Hyun Soo Kim, Byeolnim Oh, Jaewon Park, Yoon E. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plethora of plastics are being used in current society, generating huge amounts of plastic waste. Non-biodegradability of conventional plastics is one of the main challenges to treat plastic waste. In an effort to increase the efficiency of plastic waste treatment, biodegradable plastics have gained attention. Although the use of biodegradable plastics has been increased, their potential effects on the environments are not fully elucidated yet. In this study, the impacts of micro-sized non-biodegradable plastic (i.e., polystyrene (PS)) and micro-sized biodegradable plastics (i.e., polycaprolactone (PCL) and polylactic acid (PLA)) on Microcystis aeruginosa were investigated. Regardless of microplastic (MP) types, MP treatments inhibited the growth of M. aeruginosa at the beginning (4 days) while significant dose-dependent effect was not observed in the range of 0.1 to 10 mg/L. However, after long-term exposure (12 days), micro-sized biodegradable plastics stimulated the growth of M. aeruginosa (up to 73 % increase compared to the control). The photosynthetic activity showed a similar trend to the cell growth. The MP treatments induced the production of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). Indeed, micro-sized PCL and PLA stimulated the production of protein compounds in EPS. These might have affected the releases of chemicals from PCL and PLA, suggesting that the chemicals in biodegradable plastic leachates would promote the growth of M. aeruginosa in long-term exposure. The MP treatments also induced cyanotoxin (microcystin-LR) productions. Our results give a new insight into the cyanobacterial blooming and suggest a novel relationship between harmful algal blooms (HABs) and biodegradable plastics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169044
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Feb 20

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Biodegradable plastics
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Microcystin
  • Microplastics
  • Polycaprolactone
  • Polylactic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of micro-sized biodegradable plastics on Microcystis aeruginosa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this