Caterpillar can break down plastic by chewing, study reveals
Studies in plastic waste degradation are an ongoing affair since a long time, but none of these studies have come up with efficient way to compensate for the waste that we generate. However, a new study has found that there is a particular insect that could chew up a common type of plastic an in return offer us ethylene glycol.
The study published in journal Current Biology claims to have discovered a particular species of caterpillars known as wax worms that can chew up the polyethylene. Scientists discovered that the larva of Galleria mellonella, possess the capacity to break down the polyethylene plastic which is one of the most stubborn in terms of bio-degradation rate.
Scientists made these worms to stay inside a polyethylene bag for the experimentation period. Researchers from the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain led by Federica Bertocchini then found the plastic bags to undergo break down. In the 14 hours of observation, these 100 caterpillars collectively were able to break down 13 percent of the plastic bag which is a much higher than the earlier studies carried out on bacteria and fungus.
The wax worms were able to convert the polyethylene bags into ethylene glycol. Wax worms themselves have polymer similar to an extent present in this type of plastic due to which they are likely to bio-degrade the plastic in the bag. These wax-worms diet include wax honeycomb which possess a likewise chemical structure present in polyethylene plastic.
According to the scientists, in further research if the process of bio-degradation is found feasible, mass reproduction of these worms can be done to reduce the huge amount of plastic waste accumulated in the landfills, thus curbing the pollution caused due to the plastic waste.