Plastic-Eating Wax Worms

Posted: May 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

(Source: Federica Bertocchini/Paolo Bombelli/Chris Howe)

State of Global Garbage

Research from former World Bank urban development specialists Dan Hoornweg and his colleagues Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy have found that without transformational changes in how we use and reuse materials, the amount of garbage we throw away will continue to increase and will not peak this century. While developing countries still produce the majority of global garbage, it is developing countries that are also increasing their production; they also found that the sooner Sub-Saharan Africa’s waste increase peaks, the sooner we will be able to determine when the world’s trash problem will decline.

The World Bank notes with grave concern that if business continues as usual solid waste generation will increase 70% by 2025 and by 2100 will reach 11 million tonnes per day globally. Moreover, the cost of dealing with such vast amounts of trash produced are increasing, putting enormous pressure on both governments and the environment.

Therefore, any innovative means in dealing with garbage will likely reduce these pressures and move us towards a scenario that involves a brighter and greener future. It is highly noteworthy find then that a particular king of worm (the wax worm) has been found that eats plastic – a major component of non-biodegradable garbage.

Spanish National Research Council scientist and amateur beekeeper Federica Bertocchini was fortunate to discover that wax worms that normally feed on wax in the wild also have a voracious appetite for devouring plastic. Bertocchini realised the discovery when she released a worm infestation from one of her beehives into a plastic bag in her garbage; the worms were able to escape by eating their way out of the plastic bag.The Galleria mellonella, or wax worm as it is known, can eat up to 92 milligrams of plastic within 12 hours when at least 100 of them are present.

Until now, the only use of such worms was as premium fish bait, but their new found ability could present itself as a solution to one of our major global problems. The worms are able to break down polyethylene with the same enzymes they use to break down wax in the wild.

The ramification of this great find is that scientists believe they could extract the gene responsible for the enzyme and put it into E.coli bacteria or marine phytoplankton in order to break down plastics in the wild. Additionally, large numbers of these worms could be bred and then set on plastic waste in order to help reduce it. However this latter use depends on further research to figure out whether the worms were in fact eating plastic as food or just as a means of escape.

Source: Plastic-Eating Wax Worms

Comments
  1. Frankensteinian. Too many wax worms are bound to throw Nature out of balance. Besides, what if the worm’s excrement is mostly non-digestible, non-biodegradable (still) plastic?

    • futuret says:

      IF WE COULD ONLY FIND WORMS THAT CAN EAT UP THE HIGH COSTS OF LIVING, TAXES, AND GOVERNMENT; THE PLASTICS WOULD TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES.

    • Excellent point, JoAnn. Any plastic-eating worm industry would have to be carefully regulated. It probably makes more sense to transform the plastic into usable products such as carrier bags, shoes, building materials and furniture. Such industries already exist in many parts of the world.

  2. A good post but should still ban plastic bags in supermarkets. It is an easy step. They have done it in Holland twenty years ago.

  3. Schlüter says:

    Caution is needed. It could be that they contain undigested plastic that could by this easier enter the food chain!
    Weekend regards

    • For sure, Schluter. Scientists will need to carefully study their poop so they understand what comes out the other end.

      • futuret says:

        MANY OF THEM SHOULD BE SHOT DEAD FOR THE THINGS THAT THEY DO. IT REALLY IS NOT RESEARCH, IT IS THE DEVIL WORKING THROUGH THEM IN THEIR LABORATORIES.

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