Scientists have found worms that eat polystyrene and digest it

Author: Clark Tos
2022-09-12 18:11:01

Have scientists finally found a cure for plastic pollution? They would have discovered plastic-eating worms capable of digesting polystyrene.

Credit: via Extreme Tech

Researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia, say they have discovered a beetle larva (which looks like a worm in a larval form, says the site Extreme Tech ) which could be the key to eliminating the plastic of our environment.

Because it must be said that polystyrene and polystyrene foam are everywhere. In packaging boxes where it follows the shape of the cardboard to absorb shocks... As for its solidified version, it is used to make disposable utensils or even transparent objects.

Styrofoam is therefore one of the most common types of plastic. A big downside when you know that, in France, polystyrene is not part of the waste collected for recycling. Indeed, it has neither its place in the yellow trash can nor in the black trash can. However, polystyrene is 100% recyclable .

To rid our planet of plastic, especially polystyrene, scientists may have found the solution: worms.

Worms that can digest plastic

Credit: Photo_HamsterMan/iStock

As the site explains Extreme Tech , « scientists have long searched for microbes or insect enzymes that could help break down durable plastics like polystyrene '. After years and years of research, scientists may have finally found the answer to their question(s) thanks to a beetle larva known as Zophobas morio, a giant woodworm also nicknamed ' giant mealworm '. These larvae are used as food for the animals terrarium insectivores.

Thus, these larvae are able to digest polystyrene thanks to a ' unique blend of bacterial enzymes capable of digesting polystyrene contained in their digestive system.

Scientists have discovered that mealworm larvae (a species that likes cereal flours and looks like Zophobas morio) “ can subsist entirely on a polystyrene diet while developing.

Tenébrion meunier. Credit: Didier Descouens/Wikipedia

After shredding the plastic in their mouths, the worms break down the polymers into small pieces. The team of Chris Rinke, author of the study, succeeded in isolating the microbial genes responsible for the digestion of polystyrene. This process is known as metagenomics.

In the future, scientists would like to produce these enzymes on a large scale for use in recycling plants.

Source : Extreme Tech