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Microbes found inside a cow could break down plastics

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Could cows hold the secret to the plastic pollution problem?

Well, researchers have found that microbes inside a cow stomach can break down certain types of plastic.

Many plastic products are made from polyesters which are used in soft drink bottles and synthetic fabrics. These can take hundreds of years to break down.

Discovering this bacteria has given scientists hope that new methods could help tackle the plastic pollution problem.

plastic-bottles.Getty Images

Cows are herbivores, which mean they eat plants and in their diet they eat something called cutin – a natural polyester made by plants to protect the walls of the plant cells.

Bacteria in the cow’s stomach make enzymes that break apart the chemical bonds in this cutin polyester.

Scientists in Austria found that this can break apart the bonds in synthetic polyesters too.

The researchers took liquid from the cow’s stomach and tested whether it could break down plastic.

The results found the plastic could be broken down by the micro-organisms from the cow’s stomach.

It is now hoped that scientists can genetically create the bacteria, rather than take it from a cow’s stomach, which could then be used in recycling centres to help break down plastics on a bigger scale.

It isn’t the first time scientists have found out that bacteria can be used to break down plastic.

Last year, researchers attached two enzymes together to create a super-enzyme which can convert plastic back to its original material in just a few days.

This is much quicker than the natural way plastic breaks down which can take hundred of years.

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