The Daily Mail reports that researchers at Austria’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences recently discovered several microbes in the stomach of cattle that have the ability to break down plastics.
A cow’s stomach has four distinct sections and the microbes are found in the first section, which is also the largest, called the rumen.
The rumen contains the largest colonies of microbes used in digestion. The researchers discovered the these microbes, used to consume natural plant polymers, were also able to break down three different types of plastics, PET, PBAT and PEF, used to manufacture packaging, clothing, plastic bags and bottles.
The researchers found the combination of microbes found in the rumen were much more effective in breaking down plastics than other microbes tested.
The biggest problem with plastics is that the molecular strings that made up plastic are much larger than bacteria, making it very difficult to consume.
In 2016, workers at a recycling plant in Japan discovered that plastic was also starting to degrade (in organic terms, rot). Researchers discovered bacteria was breaking down the tough polymers by cutting the plastic molecules into smaller bits, so it could be digested. READ: A Plastic-Eating Bacterium Might Help Deal With Waste One Day