Archive for April, 2017

Could a caterpillar help solve the world’s plastic bag problem?

April 26, 2017

The global plastic bag crisis could be solved by a waxworm (Galleria mellonella) capable of eating through the material at “uniquely high speeds”.

Researchers have described the tiny caterpillar’s ability to break down even the toughest plastics as “extremely exciting” and said the discovery could offer an environmentally friendly solution on an industrial scale.

Around a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, of which a huge number find their way into the oceans or are discarded into landfill.

Galleria mellonella eats plastic bag.jpg

The waxworm, commonly found living in bee hives or harvested as fishing bait, proved it could eat its way through polyethylene, which is notoriously hard to break down, more than 1400 times faster than other organisms.

Scientists believe the worm has enzymes in its saliva or gut that attack plastic’s chemical bonds, in the same way they digest the wax found in hives.

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