Tuesday, April 25, 2017

These worms eat plastic grocery bags

Go for it, you little suckers.
This is good news because I need these plastic bags to handle cat poop when I clean out the litter box. Other than that, they're good for carrying stuff you need to carry.

Here's the deal: 
Scientists have found that a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene: one of the toughest and most used plastics, frequently found clogging up landfill sites in the form of plastic shopping bags.

The wax worm, the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, or greater wax moth, is a scourge of beehives across Europe. In the wild, the worms live as parasites in bee colonies. Wax moths lay their eggs inside hives where the worms hatch and grow on beeswax - hence the name.
We can credit serendipity.
A chance discovery occurred when one of the scientific team, Federica Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, was removing the parasitic pests from the honeycombs in her hives. The worms were temporarily kept in a typical plastic shopping bag that became riddled with holes.

Bertocchini, from the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (CSIC), Spain, collaborated with colleagues Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge's Department of Biochemistry to conduct a timed experiment.
Around a hundred wax worms were exposed to a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. Holes started to appear after just 40 minutes, and after 12 hours there was a reduction in plastic mass of 92mg from the bag. 
Scientists say that the degradation rate is extremely fast compared to other recent discoveries, such as bacteria reported last year to biodegrade some plastics at a rate of just 0.13mg a day.
I am just beside myself with joy.

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