Little is known about the degradability of oxo-biodegradable polyethylene (OXO-PE) and its surface fouling bacterial communities in the marine environment. The degradation of OXO-PE, PE and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was compared at two depths (2 m and 6 m) in the Arabian Gulf. Scanning electron microcopy (SEM) revealed more fissure formation on OXO-PE and PE than on PET, indicating physical degradation. The formation of hydroxyl groups and carbonyl bonds, by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), suggests chemical degradation of OXO-PE. Plastisphere bacterial communities on OXO-PE and PE were different than on PET. Proteobacteria, Bacteriodetes and Planctomycetes were detected on all plastics, however, sequences of Alteromonas and Zoogloea were OXO-PE-specific suggesting a possible involvement of these bacterial genera in OXO-PE degradation. We conclude that OXO-PE shows increased signs of degradation with time owing to the combination of abiotic and biotic processes, and its degradation is higher in the benthic than in the planktonic zone.
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