Common plastics can be broken down by enzymes found in cow stomachs




Cows within the Karwendel mountains of Austria

Thomas Winz/Getty Photographs

Cows have stomachs with 4 compartments and the micro organism in certainly one of them – the rumen – produce enzymes which might break down sure frequent plastics. The invention may result in new know-how for processing the plastics after use.

Georg Guebitz on the College of Pure Assets and Life Sciences in Austria and his colleagues visited a neighborhood slaughterhouse and picked up samples of the liquid from the rumen of a younger Alpine pasture-fed ox. They discovered that the liquid contained many kinds of enzymes, together with cutinases.

The group demonstrated that these enzymes may break down three kinds of broadly used polyesters – particularly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), and polyethylene furanoate (PEF), which are sometimes used to make merchandise together with bottles, textiles and luggage. The enzymes did so inside one to a few days when saved at a temperature of about 40 °C to match the temperature of a cow’s abdomen.

“We discovered that the food plan of cows accommodates meals which have a ‘shell’ that’s much like polyesters,” says Guebitz: this explains why the microbes throughout the rumen produce enzymes that may additionally degrade artificial polyesters.


In future, the enzymes within the rumen liquid could possibly be used to interrupt down polyesters on a bigger, business scale, says Guebitz. This will likely, at the very least probably, show to be cheaper than the applied sciences at the moment used to course of the plastics, he says – however different researchers are cautious about this.

“It must be confirmed that the enzymatic exercise is identical or higher than what’s commercially being carried out at present,” says Ramani Narayan at Michigan State College within the US. “In the event that they have been to quick monitor to an engineering course of, then there may be numerous work that must be achieved by way of what’s the yield of the product, what’s the productiveness, and so forth to match with present enzyme know-how.”

Journal reference: Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.684459/full

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