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Crop Biotech Update

Cow's Gut Microbes Can Degrade Three Types of Plastics

July 7, 2021

The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria and partners discovered that microbes from cow rumen could degrade three types of plastics, a breakthrough that could be vital in sustainable plastic degradation and the recycling process. The findings are published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

The researchers studied the rumen content from cattle with a focus on how the microbes could eat plastic. They incubated each type of plastic in rumen liquid for 1-3 days then measured the byproducts of the plastics to elucidate how the microbe breaks down the plastic materials into their components. The results showed that the rumen liquid broke down polyethylene furanoate (PEF) most efficiently, but also degraded polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT).

The team is exploring how to maximize the microbes' plastic-eating powers to break down more troublesome plastic products.

Read more in Live Science and Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.