Cows continue to have a disastrous environmental impact long after they meat their unhappy fate at the slaughterhouse. In order to keep America Mad Cow Disease-free, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlawed the practice of turning byproducts of slaughtered animals into feed, leaving mounds of chemically-treated meat and bone meal (MBM) to accumulate in landfills. Not anymore, says the American Chemical Society (ACS). The ACS recently announced that they can mitigate that waste by using MBM instead of petroleum or natural gas to produce a partially biodegradeable plastic that not only clears landfills, but also reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.

Following the 1997 FDA ban on feeding animal scraps back to livestock, 9 billion pounds of meat and bone meal have gone to waste each year. The current policy is to treat leftover MBM with powerful chemicals that eliminate any trace of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) before tossing the noxious concoction into special landfills.

The ACS solves a pressing environmental issue and what they call a “waste disposal headache” in one fell swoop. Untreated MBM mixed with an ultra-high-molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) – the same kind of material used to make skis and snowboards – produces a variety of plastic that is almost as durable as the original UHMWPE but better. It requires no fossil fuels, it is partially biodegradeable, and it has the potential to keep 9 billion pounds of animal out of America’s landfills.

+ American Chemical Society

Lead image via Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden