2 million plastic bags are used worldwide every minute. It’s hard to imagine the heaps of plastic that accumulate over years. Scientists are trying to find a solution and governments are introducing quotas for the use of plastic. Nevertheless, this problem remains serious to this day. But the situation can be changed with the help of a worm. This unexpected discovery pushed scientists to do research and they got some unexpected positive results.
Bright Side is ready to tell you about a small but powerful worm that can become a hero and clean our planet from plastic waste.
This worm that might help us fight plastic rubbish is actually caterpillar called a waxworm. It parasitizes bee colonies and eats wax and you can also buy it for your terrarium pets, like lizards, to eat. The worm is also useful in animal research since it can replace mammals in some experiments. And, as we already know, it’s recently been found useful to help prevent the destruction of the planet.
The fact that the caterpillar can digest plastic was discovered accidentally. Professor Federica Bertocchini, who is a beekeeper, put waxworms in a plastic bag and then found numerous holes in it a little later. Together with other scientists, Paolo Bombelli and Christopher J. Howe, she decided to conduct research based on the plastic bag incident using 100 worms.
They put the worms in plastic shopping bags and holes began to appear after 40 minutes. After 12 hours the mass of plastic decreased by 92 mg. In order to understand that the worms were actually breaking down the chemical bonds in the plastic, and not just tearing it, the scientists crushed a couple of the worms and smeared them on the bags. The results repeated — the holes appeared again.
Scientists believe that the secret lies in an enzyme inside the worms that helps them digest plastic. Besides, they already eat wax, which is a “natural plastic.”
After the researchers isolate and understand what the enzyme is and how the digestion process takes place in the worm, they will be one step closer to solving the problem of plastic trash.
Do you know of any ways to deal with plastic? Do you use any of them? We are interested in finding out about your methods.