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Garbage Goats

Capra hircus plastikos.
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Plastics are notoriously hard to break down organically via composting and landfill is pretty unsightly and takes up a lot of space anyway.

There are bacteria that can digest plastics and petroleum products.

Ungulates have gut bacteria that help them digest grass.

Goats are notorious for being willing to eat anything.

The tools to adjust bacteria to produce different products are pretty well established.

Proposal: tinker with goats and their gut bacteria porting the required properties across from the plastic digesting bacteria to produce a breed that can eat plastic, we can name the breed Yexil after the Gamma World RPG monster that eats artificial fibres.

Convert our plastic waste into tasty meat, milk and cheese.

With a bit of selective breeding we can get wool out of them too.

Skewed, Mar 30 2023

And they might smell better! https://www.freethi...stic-waste-vanillin
[a1, Mar 30 2023]

The gastrointestinal microbiome of browsing goats (Capra hircus) https://journals.pl...ournal.pone.0276262
[Loris, Mar 30 2023]

Nutrient Absorption and Utilization in Ruminants http://www.vivo.col...res/rum_absorb.html
[Loris, Mar 30 2023]

ALMOST but not completely unrelated https://theconversa...from-peanuts-198180
Food for thought, a footnote in synthetic "wool" research and protein structure. [a1, Apr 05 2023]

[link]






       //With a bit of selective breeding we can get wool out of them too.//   

       Or polyester, considering their diet.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       [+] even though the helpfile admonition against “magic” specifically calls out genetic tinkering and selective breeding as examples.   

       This idea is closer to feasibility than it may have been when that helpfile was written.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       My interpretation of the help page is that the intent is to block the implausible use of a technology - that is, basically to skip a difficult hurdle by presuming a technology will do something which it actually won't.   

       But in this case, I think it's legit. Goats have resident gut bacteria specialised to digest their food; other bacteria have been found to digest (some) plastics; genetic engineering can 'easily' move genes encoding specific traits between bacterial genera.   

       Whether it would actually work in practice would need some closer domain knowledge - often there are more awkward constraints. For example, maybe the gut pH is wrong for the plastic-digesting enzymes, or the pathway wouldn't be easy to move to the target organism for some annoying reason, or the products may be poisonous to goats. Etc.
But in terms of meeting the (low) bar of a halfbakery idea, I'd say it's good.
Loris, Mar 30 2023
  

       See link. E-coli has already been modified for a similar purpose.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       Next up, a proposal for a probiotic yogurt laced with tailored bacteria that allow people to digest plastic themselves, eat the yogurt, then the plastic cup it came in.   

       That's how koalas get the bacteria that lets them digest eucalyptus leaves, they eat it, in their mothers poop rather than a tasty yogurt though, so we'd be one up on them there.
Skewed, Mar 30 2023
  

       Right, you may not need to tinker with or selectively breed them - just the gut bacteria that you can introduce through their feed.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       Yep .. but [Loris] is right about there often being //awkward constraints// like //gut pH// etc .. which is why I left the door open for a little adjustment on the goat end as well in case it's needed to make them a more inviting partner for the bacteria you end up with.
Skewed, Mar 30 2023
  

       That’s why I thought the link about e.coli was interesting. It’s easy to modify and works under the right conditions.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       It is a cool article, thanks for linking it.
Skewed, Mar 30 2023
  

       E. coli is basically /the/ standard organism in widespread use in genetic engineering. And it's a gut organism, which is good.
As a general rule, it's present in most animal's intestines at about 0.1% of the gut microbiota. That's not going to be enough to make much difference to diet, whatever it could metabolise.
  

       Apparently the goat gut microbiota is predominantly Bacillota and Bacteroidota, which are distinct phyla - E.coli is in the phylum now called Pseudomonadota. That is, it's not closely related.
You'd probably want to engineer a strain directly from the goats, to have a chance of getting it to integrate into the intestinal flora at a reasonable density. I've not looked into how genetically tractable those are, but obviously you would need the ability to transform them. It's unlikely to be as easy as E. coli is; there's a reason that's a lab favourite.
  

       Also, producing vanillin is all very well - but I doubt that's a good end point. The wikipedia page for vanillin includes, among other things, the hazard statement "H302: Harmful if swallowed".
Now I'm sure it's safe enough in small doses, and goats will doubtless have hardier constitutions than you or I, but nevertheless, to integrate into the goat's intestinal metabolism you'd need to produce volatile fatty acids (such as acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid), which is apparently what the bacteria are doing for standard unmodified goats.
Loris, Mar 30 2023
  

       //Next up, a proposal for a probiotic yogurt laced with tailored bacteria that allow people to digest plastic themselves, eat the yogurt, then the plastic cup it came in.//   

       How do you stop the yogurt eating its container and escaping into the wild?
Loris, Mar 30 2023
  

       // How do you stop the yogurt eating its container and escaping into the wild? //   

       Valid concern! Next thing you know it'll be eating the plastic seals in your biohazard labs, the hoses on fighter pilots' oxygen masks, and even the heatshields of spacecraft.   

       Do you get the feeling that this has been brought up before? The Andromeda Strain, 1969. It's not science fiction anymore!
a1, Mar 30 2023
  

       Dang!   

       [Leans back and shouts over shoulder]   

       Pubert!   

       You were right, someone applied critical thinking, get Dr Strangelove on the phone, his plan is back on.   

       [Glances back]   

       [Looks sheepish]   

       Ah, you two are still here then, I thought you'd left.   

       You didn't hear anything just then did you?   

       ..   

       Well I suppose we could use glass.   

       Miniature old style milk bottles with a foil lid?   

       We can tape an empty plastic pot to the side for them to eat later.   

       There may also be a few ways we can render them inactive until they hit the gut but I'd have to look into that so I guess it's glass or nothing for the time being,   

       Going wild may not be an issue if we choose the right bacteria, there should be a fair selection to choose from that aren't all that good at persisting for long periods outside the gut of their host species .. but I'm just guessing there, something else to look into.
Skewed, Mar 30 2023
  

       Oh the bacteria.... I was thinking you were talking about the goats eating the heat shields of the spacecraft, and the hoses on fighter pilots' oxygen masks.
pocmloc, Mar 30 2023
  

       // Oh the bacteria... //   

       Strictly speaking, the Andromeda microbe isn't really a bacterium. It appears to have a crystalline structure but lacks DNA, RNA, proteins, and amino acids - and directly transforms energy to matter with no discernible byproducts. It mutates with each growth cycle, changing its biological properties.   

       If that could be controlled, it would revolutionize plastic waste disposal - and just about every other chemical industry. Sady, I only got about a chapter into the sequel (The Andromeda Evolution, 2019) before setting it aside, so I don't know how it turned out.   

       Sequels are like that sometimes.
a1, Mar 30 2023
  
      
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