Plastic Eating Worms?

A humongous problem in the modern world is our consumption and subsequent disposal of plastics.

plastic_pollution-nttom2
Photo Credits to The Ohio State University

The world currently uses an average of one trillion polyurethane plastic bags per year. Even with many people recycling or reusing them, many of the bags end up in the environment every year which is very bad because polyurethane is one of the toughest and most resilient plastics. There may be a partial solution though, in a Science Daily article it states that researchers reporting in Current Biology found that the Wax Worm caterpillar was able to biodegrade it. They noticed this when the plastic bags they kept Wax Worms in were full of holes.

waxworm_side
Photo Credit to USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

They believe that the worms developed this ability because they lay their eggs in bee hives and when they hatch they eat the beeswax. They said that, as they conduct research into the process of how the worms digest it, they were trying to find out how they could replicate this to break down the excess plastic bags we have. All they know so far is that the worms break the polyethylene into ethylene glycol. With this breakthrough we could help reduce the amount of excess plastic we have, but that all depends on how efficient it is. We don’t want to help reduce the amount of plastic pollution by putting more pollution into the air from breaking it down. We would also have to find out what to do with the excess ethylene glycol.

Link to article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170424141338.htm

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