Plastic-Eating Caterpillar Could Help Solve The Globe Waste Crisis

Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Eco-Friendly, Environment with 0 Comments

By Amanda Froelich | True Activist

At present, landfills around the globe are full of polyethylene shopping bags, an item which takes approximately 100-400 years to degrade naturally. Not only does plastic slowly leach chemicals into the environment when it is discarded in nature, it is not uncommon for wildlife to ingest plastic bags or other items, harming themselves and in some cases, dying.

Fortunately, a handful of researchers may have discovered a potential solution to the global plastic conundrum. As the Daily Mail reports, scientist Federica Bertocchini accidentally discovered that the wax worm, a caterpillar known for ingesting the wax within beehives, is able to devour and biodegrade polyethylene plastic. The insect converts the material into a form of alcohol found in antifreeze.

The scientist who works at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria uncovered the worm’s unique abilities when she attempted to clean up a wax worm infestation in one of her home beehives. Reportedly, she collected the worms then placed them in a plastic bag, hopeful that they would die. After leaving the bag in her home, Bertocchini was stunned to return and discover that the worms had chewed through the plastic and escaped.

Disgusted yet infatuated by the finding, she decided to examine the species more closely. In a new paper published in Current Biology, Bertocchini explains how 100 of the worms can chew through a normal polyethylene shopping bag in 40 minutes.

Because Bertocchini and her colleagues believed the worms had simply chewed through the plastic and shredded it, they conducted a somewhat nauseating scientific experiment to discern the worms’ abilities. First, they pureed the worms, then they left the paste in contact with the plastic itself and waited. Incredibly, 13% of the plastic has dissolved and degraded into ethylene glycol (the main component in antifreeze) after 14 hours.

The results helped the scientists conclude that the worms had not shredded the plastic. Rather, they have a compound in their digestive systems that is capable of breaking down and digesting the material. As Inhabitat points out, there have been several attempts to degrade plastic using fungus and bacteria, but none have proven to be as efficient as worm paste.

More research undoubtedly needs to be conducted, but it is possible that the wax worm could be an instrumental part of solving the global plastic crisis. What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

True Activist / Report a typo

Read more great articles at True Activist.

Tags: , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

New Title

NOTE: Email is optional. Do NOT enter it if you do NOT want it displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use' must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Send this to a friend