Detected Moth Larvae that Decompose Plastic
Science & Tech / /
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered that a kind of moth larvae, which is commonly fed by wax from bee honey, can decompose plastics.
Experiments have shown that larvae of these insects can break down the chemical bonds in plastic, in a similar way as beeswax wax. Scientists hope that further exploration could be a solution to the problem with plastic waste.
Every year, around 80 million tones of plastic are produced in the world, which, among other things, is used to produce pots and packaging for food and beverages.
Moth larvae known as Galleria mellonella can make holes in the plastic bags in less than an hour. Dr. Paolo Bombeli, from the team of biochemists who participated in the study said that larvae are just the beginning.
“We want to know if they’re munching the plastic to use as a food, or just because they want to escape,” said dr. Bombelli, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council. “If they just want to escape, they are going to get fed up very soon. But if they’re munching it to use as an energy source it’s a completely different ball game. We are not yet able to answer this, but we’re working on it.”
The ultimate goal is to as quickly as possible discoverthe mysteries of the natural decomposition of plastic. Scientists think that despite the larvae, the microbes that live in it also play a significant role in this process.
"We are planning to implement this finding into a viable way to get rid of plastic waste, working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers, and all the environment from the unavoidable consequences of plastic accumulation," said Dr Bertocchini. "However, we should not feel justified to dump polyethylene deliberately in our environment just because we now know how to bio-degrade it."
If they are successful in discovering the exact chemical process, that could lead to solving the serious problem of plastic waste.
The research is published in the Current Biology.