Around 300 million tons of plastic is produced throughout the globe, which ends up as a major source of pollution as it resists degradation.
Recently, studies have found a way to control the very issue using caterpillars/worms that are bred as premium fish bait. These have been observed munching over plastic. This unique tendency was first discovered by Federica Bertocchini, a scientist and amateur beekeeper who found that waxworms have a taste for more than wax. She removed an infestation from one of her hives and put them in a plastic bag, but the worms simply ate their way out.
“I went back to the room where I had left the worms and I found that they were everywhere,” she said. “The bag was full of holes,” Bertocchini told The Guardian.
Bertocchini, who is also a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council, and scientists at Cambridge University, investigated the feeding habits of the centimetre-long Galleria mellonella grubs.
In lab tests, they discovered that 100 worms can devour 92 milligrams of polyethylene in as little as 12 hours.
Researchers came to the conclusion that with this kind of uncontrollable appetite these worms can be put to good use. The grubs appear to break down polyethylene with the same enzymes they use for eating beeswax. To confirm that the worms were not simply chewing the plastic into smaller pieces, the scientists mashed some of them up and smeared the grub paste on plastic bags.
Well with further research, scientists hope to identify the enzymes that the wax worms produce when they go to work on a bag. The genes for these might then be put into bacteria, such as E-coli, or into marine organisms like phytoplankton, and used to degrade plastics in the wild.
This is a great way to reduce plastic waste. The worms could be bred in large numbers and then set loose on waste.
Information source: theguardian
Title image: hindustantimes