Newly-Found Plastic-Eating Caterpillars Could be a Solution to Plastic Pollution, Scientists Say

by Ernest Thomas
Newly-Found Plastic-Eating Caterpillars Could be a Solution to Plastic Pollution, Scientists Say

Plastic pollution has become a major concern worldwide. The material is seeping into our oceans, lands, and even into our bodies. So far, researchers and governments have made every possible effort to recycle plastic. But still, the problem remains high. New research, published in Discover Magazine, reveals that researchers have discovered a new type of caterpillar. Notably, the discovery has rejuvenated hope in the battle against plastic pollution. Scientists say the greater wax moth munches on plastic. Currently, they are assessing the way these caterpillars digest plastic to deal with the global plastic problem.

Galleria mellonella, or so-called wax moth, enjoys eating polyethylene, a most common form of plastic that is extremely difficult to degrade. In 2017, scientists, by coincidence, found that wax worms had munched on holes via plastic bags in which they were kept. After that, mystified researchers placed those caterpillars on a polythene film in a laboratory. Surprisingly, the wax worms were functioning on the plastic. The outcomes have revealed that 100 larvae can consume 92 mg of plastic for 12 hours. Well, it is not a great quantity, but it is more than the amount microbes can breakdown. Apart from this, the plastivores, or caterpillars, in reality, eat and digest the material to turn it into energy.

Christophe LeMoine from Manitoba’s Brandon University, an author of the study, said nature is offering a great entry point to design an efficient, biodegradable plastic. He added before using the technique they need to solve some puzzles. Scientists say the ecosystem of wax worms may unveil the mystery. Those worms feed on beeswax, and their usual place to reside is the honeycomb. The insect lays eggs inside a beehive, where the larvae develop to the pupa phase eating wax. Meanwhile, beeswax includes a highly different blend of lipid compounds. Even more, some of those compounds have a structural formation the same as polyethylene. Thus the worms have adapted the potential to break down plastic. Above all, the researchers surmise they can assess this breakdown process and reproduce a biochemical solution. In the future, the discovery would assist in managing plastic waste.

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