Plastic-Eating Worm Can Help Ease Pollution

Elle Zhan Wei
May 2nd 2017

Each yeah about 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean. We don’t have 450 years to wait for a plastic bottle to degrade by itself, but nature always finds a way! A recently discovered plastic eating worm could be responsible for taking care of our massive plastic waste.

Plastic eating microbes have been discovered before. But microbes are relatively slow in digesting and they have trouble breaking down the more transparent plastics with tough structure. This wax worm, usually used for fishing, is 1.400 times faster at devouring plastics, even the notoriously hard to break - polyethylene.

Scientists believe it’s the enzymes in the worms silva or gut that give the worms the power to attack the chemical bounds of plastic. “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”.

Currently the researchers are looking for ways to embed that enzyme into a liquid that could be sprayed directly on garbage landfills. Or to modify the enzymes into sea plants, as an organic way to start a non-stoping process to clean the ocean.

Source: The Telegraph. Image: Wired

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