With billions of pounds of meat and bone meal going to waste in landfills after a government ban on its use in cattle feed, scientists have described development of a process for using that so-called meat and bone meal to make partially biodegradable plastic that does not require raw materials made from oil or natural gas.
They reported at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Fehime Vatansever and colleagues explained that in 1997, the U. S Food and Drug Administration banned the decades-old practice of feeding meat and bone meal (MBM) made from byproducts of slaughtered cattle, sheep, and farmed deer, elk and bison to those same animals. Other countries took similar action. It stemmed from concern over the human form of Mad Cow Disease, a very rare but fatal brain disorder that spread in the United Kingdom from eating infected meat. As of 2010, only three cases of the disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), had occurred in the United States. The bans were to reduce the chances that meat and bone meal made from one infected cow could spread BSE widely throughout cattle herds.
“The ban changed what once was a valuable resource — a nutritious component of cattle feed — into waste disposal headache,” Vatansever said. “More than nine billion pounds of protein meal are produced by the U.S. rendering industry each year, and most of that is meat and bone meal. The meal from cows had to be treated with harsh chemicals to destroy any BSE and then put into special landfills. We thought we could keep meat and bone meal from being deposited in landfills by using it to make petroleum-free bioplastics.”