This Wax Worm Feeds on Plastics. Will this Clean up Our Mess?

Khryss | Published 2017-05-01 19:07
Because no matter how much we damage nature, it always seem to find ways to help us... The discovery all happened when Federica Bertocchini, a developmental biologist at the University of Cantabria in Spain, cleaned out her backyard bee hives. She removed the wax worms living in it then moved these to a plastic shopping bag (which is the easiest thing do, right?). But when she checked it after an hour, the bag became riddled with holes. Who would've known that cleaning will lead her to a major breakthrough? Before all those, I guess it would be impolite to just go through everything without (briefly) introducing you to the real "hero"- the wax worms. They got their names (obviously) because they live on the wax in bee hives. When not harvested as fishing baits, these worms eat their way through the wax which is a polymer like today's common plastics. I guess it isn't so surprising how these are notoriously hard to break down. “Since they eat wax, they may have evolved a molecule to break it down, and that molecule might also work on plastic,” Bertocchini said. So she teamed up  with fellow scientists Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe to thoroughly study what could possibly be a unique solution to the plastic problem. They first  placed 100 waxworms on plastic bag from a British supermarket for over 12 hours. When checked, 92mg of plastics were eaten! To confirm that the degradation of the plastic was not because of their chewing mechanism, researchers “mashed up” some of the recently deceased worms and applied these on the plastic bags which created a similar effect! “It’s extremely, extremely exciting because breaking down plastic has proved so challenging,” said Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University. “If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable.” While most people would say that we should focus on decreasing the production of plastics and recycling more instead, I personally think that when it comes to saving the world, everything we can do has to be done. Even a small creature like this worm showed that it can help lessen today's pollution. The question here is, what can you do as a capable human being?
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