Year after year, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic are thrown away around the world, putting our planet’s ecosystems at risk. In the United States, for example, only 10% of the plastic used is recycled annually.
But now everything can change, a team of scientists from the Californian University of Stanford has just published research that may be the solution to the great problem of plastic garbage in the world, in the not too distant future.
These researchers have discovered that a small beetle larvae known as a mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) can feed on expanded polystyrene, a plastic that is not biodegradable. According to the researchers, these insects can convert half of the polystyrene they consume into carbon dioxide and the other half into excrement as decomposed fragments. The secret of these larvae are bacteria that they have in their digestive system, which gives them the ability to break down plastic.
This consumption of plastic does not affect the health of the larvae. Which makes them a powerful weapon of destruction for plastic.
According to the study authors, it is the first time that conclusive evidence of bacterial degradation of plastic in an animal’s gut has been obtained.
Now they are studying how to extract these bacteria and use them directly to destroy the plastic. They are also looking for other insects that have this ability, as they are convinced there must be more.
The researchers hope that this discovery could become part of the plastic waste management system worldwide in the near future.
The results of the research were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.