The plastic pollution It is a serious problem, especially if they reach the oceans, where they can seriously affect their ecosystems. They can even come back to us through diet. Therefore, it is important to look for alternatives to these materials and recycle them as much as possible. The problem is that these measures are not always sufficient, so you have to look for ways to degrade all plastic that is consumed. For example, with the help of cows.
There are some biodegradable options, which once released into the environment gradually decompose. Other times, when conventional plastic is used, the solution may lie in looking for little helpers to take care of its degradation. And that is what a team of scientists from the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in a study just published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.
In it, they demonstrate the power of some bacteria, from the cows stomach, decomposing various types of plastic. But it is not only valid with bacteria, in reality you need a substance that can be accessed very easily through the slaughterhouses.
Cows against plastic pollution
This study arose from the observation that cows have the ability to process vegetable substances very similar to synthetic polyesters. This capacity is due to the presence of certain populations of bacteria in one of the compartments of your stomach, known as rumen.
Rumen fluid is better to use than isolated bacteria
At this, they thought that if they could digest the natural polyesters from plants, perhaps they could also be useful in the fight against plastic pollution.
They needed to design a study to check it, so they took samples from ruminal fluid donated by a slaughterhouse and exposed to three different types of these materials. On the one hand, they used polyethylene terephthalate (PET), known to be used frequently in the manufacture of packaging and textile products. On the other hand, they incubated the liquid next to polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) already polyethylene furanoate (PEF). These last two are biodegradable plastics. The first is used to make compostable bags, while the second is a material based on plant sugars that is still under investigation.
The three incubated next to the ruminal fluid in two different formats: reduced to powder or in thin films.
In all cases, they were adequately degraded with the fluid removed from the stomach of cows. However, the process was faster when they had been reduced to dust.
They also observed that the procedure was much more efficient than in other studies in which the isolated bacteria. Therefore, to fight against plastic contamination it is necessary to use all the liquid from the rumen of cows, since it also contains enzymes necessary for decomposition.
So far the study has been carried out on a small scale. However, in a statement its authors have explained that, given the amount of ruminal fluid that is obtained daily in slaughterhouses, it could be easily scaled. That yes, it would be expensive, for what they would have to get sufficient funding. Of course, the end is more than laudable.