A possible solution to the ever-growing plastic pollution: wax worms

One of the biggest scares of modern life is plastic pollution. The material which is used for everything from shopping bags, containers for food to toys takes more than 400 years to break down. Plastic pollution is becoming a bigger issue every day. However, some European scientists may well be on their way to solving this problem with the help of wax worm.

Paolo Bombelli and Christopher J. Howe from Cambridge University and Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain published their possibly ground-breaking research in the recent issue of Current Biology. They concluded from their experiments that the larva of the wax moth known scientifically as Galleria mellonella can fasten the pace of plastic degradation.
Bertocchini keeps bees as a hobby. Two years ago, the comb of one of her colonies was ridden with the larvae of wax moth. She removed all the worms and kept them tied in a plastic bag. A while later, she discovered that the worms had escaped by gnawing at the bag.
She, then, partnered with the Cambridge scientists to carry out experiments to confirm her discovery. In one of the tests, they left a 100 worms in a shopping bag. The first holes started to appear in the bag in a little over half an hour. In fact, in just 12 hours, the worms had eaten up 92mg of the plastic.
Further research also showed that the worms were able to convert the polyethylene (PE) into ethylene glycol. Researchers believe that the beeswax in the honeycombs that these worms feed on involve similar chemical changes.
Dr Bertocchini, who led the research at CSIC , said: “We are planning to implement this finding into a viable way to get rid of plastic waste, working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers, and all the environment from the unavoidable consequences of plastic accumulation.”

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