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Plastic-Eating Worms Could Inspire Waste-Degrading Tools

  1. Jun 15, 2017 #1
    Wax moth larvae can consume and degrade polyethylene at an impressive rate

    Researchers in Spain and England recently found that the larvae of the greater wax moth can efficiently degrade polyethylene, which accounts for 40 percent of plastics. The team left 100 wax worms on a commercial polyethylene shopping bag for 12 hours, and the worms consumed and degraded about 92 milligrams, or roughly 3 percent, of it. To confirm that the larvae’s chewing alone was not responsible for the polyethylene breakdown, the researchers ground some grubs into a paste and applied it to plastic films. Fourteen hours later the films had lost 13 percent of their mass—presumably broken down by enzymes from the worms’ stomachs.



  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2017 #2


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    I'm never taking part in one of their studies... ?:)
  4. Jun 16, 2017 #3


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    I would consider trying to grow the catepillers, to eat plastic shopping bags, if the bags weren't already eliminated from the Eugene area where I live.

    Wonder if they would be an invasive species.
  5. Jun 17, 2017 #4
  6. Jun 17, 2017 #5
    Well, I hope they would since apparently, we would need a whole lot of them to combat the plastic waste problem. But at least it gives some hope. :)

    These creatures, the larvae of the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella), can devour polyethylene, which along with the closely related polypropylene is the main type of plastic found in waste. But you’d need an awful lot of them to make a significant dent on the plastic waste problem. The UK alone discards almost 2m tonnes of this stuff every year. At the rate of consumption reported by the researchers – one worm gets through about two milligrams of plastic a day – you’d need billions of caterpillars eating constantly all year round to deal with that.


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