Common plastics can be broken down by enzymes in the cow’s stomach


Cows in the Karwendel Mountains of Austria

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The cow’s stomach has four compartments, one of which is the lumen, which contains bacteria. Produces enzymes that can break down certain common plastics.. This discovery may lead to new technologies for processing plastics after use.

Georg Guebitz of the Austrian University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and his colleagues visited a local slaughterhouse to collect liquid samples from the rumens of young cows in the Alps pasture. They found that the liquid contained many types of enzymes, including cutinase.

The team demonstrated that these enzymes can degrade three widely used polyesters: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), and polyethylene furanoate (PEF). These are often used in the manufacture of products such as bottles. Textiles And a bag. The enzyme did so within 1-3 days if kept at a temperature of about 40 ° C to match the temperature of the cow’s stomach.

“We found that cow food contained foods that had a“ shell ”like polyester,” says Gewitz. This explains why the microorganisms in the lumen produce enzymes that break down synthetic polyester.

In the future, enzymes in the rumen solution could be used to break down polyester on a larger commercial scale, Gewitz said. This could prove, at least potentially, cheaper than the technology currently used to process plastics, he says, but other researchers are cautious about this.

“We need to prove that the enzyme activity is as good as or better than what is commercially practiced today,” he said. Ramanina Rayan At Michigan State University in the United States. “If you want to tackle the engineering process quickly, you have to do a lot of work, such as product yield and productivity, compared to existing enzyme technologies.”

Journal reference: Bioengineering and biotechnology frontier, DOI: 10.3389 / fbioe.2021.684459 / full

Details of these topics: Common plastics can be broken down by enzymes in the cow’s stomach

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