The Lowly Wax Worm May Save Our Future By Biodegrading Plastic
We use trillions of plastic bags and other pieces of trashes made of plastic every single year. And those plastic products are basically made of a type of plastic named ‘polyethylene’ which lasts decades to dissolve in nature, which is a great threat to our environment and future of our kids.
However, this bad scenario is about to change now as the humble wax worm may hold the key to biodegrading them. Scientist and beekeeper Federica Bertocchini accidentally discovered that those caterpillar larvae of Galleria mellonella, which is commonly known as a wax worm infested her beehives.
Here are the quotations from the article:
Bertocchini, who works at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain, tells NPR that she was cleaning out the hive and put the worm-infested parts in a plastic bag. But shortly afterward, she noticed that “they were all crawling around my place and the plastic bag was riddled with holes.”
This got her thinking about whether the creatures were simply chewing up the plastic or actually breaking it down chemically. Bertocchini and a team of researchers decided to test it, so they ground some wax worms into a pulp and spread it on the polyethylene plastic.
The plastic still degraded. “So it had to be something chemical that was going on and not a physical breakdown,” one of the scientists, Christopher Howe of the University of Cambridge, tells NPR………
The scientists also found that what the worms did transformed the plastic into ethylene glycol, which is commonly used in antifreeze
……..So why would the wax worm have this ability? Bertocchini says it might be because the critter commonly lives in beehives. “It eats wax and honey,” she said
The idea isn’t to release millions of worms for a feeding frenzy at a dump. As Bertocchini explains, researchers are hoping to find biotechnological solutions to the problem of plastic waste. The best scenario, she says, would be to isolate the molecule responsible and “produce it in large scale in a lab in vitro, and then distribute the molecule in large scale.”
What do you think about it? Do you think this discovery will save us from contaminating our soil with plastics? Share the post if you like it.