Some European scientists have recently discovered a caterpillar capable of eating plastic bags, which could mean a new solution to combat the pollution produced by plastic, one of the most difficult materials to decompose.
The so-called wax moth, whose larvae are bred to be used as bait for fishing, is a scourge for bee hives in Europe, and it was thus coincidentally that a scientist and beekeeper discovered a way to speed up Degradation of polyethylene.
At the moment when Frederica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain was cleaning the larvae that live as parasites of the beeswax of one of their hives, put them in a plastic bag and quickly that, relatively recently Several holes appeared in the bag.
Thus, the scientist tried to join about 100 caterpillars, in a common plastic bag, from a British supermarket. He found that the first holes that appeared appeared in just 40 minutes.
After a total of 12 hours, 92 milligrams of plastic had disappeared, a rhythm far superior to what scientists have already experimented with bacteria that can only consume 0.13 milligrams per day.
“If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its large-scale reproduction with biotechnological methods should be possible”, said Paolo Bombelli, of the University of Cambridge, UK, the lead author of the study published by Current Biology.
Polyethylene is mainly used in packaging and accounts for 40% of the plastic products used in Europe, where about 38% of the plastic ends up in landfills.
It is about a trillion, the number of plastic bags that is used every year, representing a huge risk factor for the environment, since the plastic is highly resistant and even when it begins to decompose it remains fragmented and scattered throughout the Various ecosystems.
Considering that the fact that larvae can eat plastic is not yet fully studied and tested, the researchers still suggest that the decomposition of bees and plastic wax by larvae involves a similar chemical process.
Frederica Bertocchini also pointed out that wax is “a polymer, a kind of ‘natural plastic’ with a structure similar to polyethylene”.