Researchers in Austria have discovered that common plastics can break down when in contact with the rumen in cows’ stomachs, a solution that could solve the current problem of plastic waste pollution.
Bacteria in cow’s stomach can break down synthetic plastic; Image source: CNN
According to CNN (USA), researchers at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, the Austrian Center for Industrial Biotechnology and the University of Innsbruck, recently discovered that Common plastic can break down when it comes in contact with the rumen, which is found in cow stomachs.
They found that bacteria and enzymes found in the rumen can break down common plastics, including those widely used in the production of plastic bags, bottles, textiles and clothing. food packaging.
Specifically, the study, published in the scientific journal Frontiers on July 2, analyzed rumen samples from Alpine cattle in an Austrian slaughterhouse. The team aspirated fluid from a cow’s rumen (the stomach’s largest compartment for food-digesting microorganisms), then tested the effect of the rumen on three types of plastic: polyethylene terephthalate (commonly known as polyethylene terephthalate). are PET), polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF).
After one to three days, they began analyzing the plastic by-products to determine how microorganisms in the bovine rumen fluid had disrupted the material’s structure. The results showed that they were able to degrade all three types of plastic in the experiment, in which the most effective was PEF.
Next, the team took DNA samples from the rumen fluid to find out what types of bacteria were involved in the plastic breakdown. In the end, they concluded that it was mainly a group of bacteria belonging to the genus Pseudomonas. In addition, some species in the genus Acinetobacter are also involved in breaking down the plastic structure.
“The rumen can start to break down plastic in just a few hours and completely decompose over a longer period of time. Cow’s stomach is inherently able to break down non-biodegradable substances, including cutin. Cutin is a waxy substance found in plants and is a polyester similar to PET,” says Professor Georg Gübitz at BOKU.
Mr. Gübitz said that while more research is still needed, the findings are important because they could help find solutions to break down “hard to recycle” waste. The study of how microorganisms and enzymes affect plastics is a popular area of research, but the potential role of bovine rumen remains unknown to this day.
If the enzymes can be identified and produced in large quantities through bacterial culture without needing to be collected directly from bovine gastric fluids, the team could extend this method of degrading plastics to a large scale. industry, allowing to solve the current pollution problem.
“Rumen is quite effective when compared to other enzymes that have been tested over the past 10 years. Initially, we could collect them as a by-product of the meat and dairy industry. But in the long run, it makes more sense to produce this enzyme and even further enhance its capabilities using genetic engineering,” added Gübitz.
According to UPI/Live Science