A Worm With An Appetite For Polystyrene

Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered a species of worm capable of eating through polystyrene, creating a huge breakthrough for processes taking on plastic recycling across the world. The team found this phenomenon by feeding the superworms different diets over a time frame of 3 weeks, some with polystyrene foam whom survived and gained weight.

How Does This Work?

The Zophobas morio ‘superworm’ is able to munch through plastic products such as polystyrene due to the bacteria in their gut. This makes it possible to digest plastic materials and recycle the waste, rather than having it end up in landfills and polluting our planet. ‘The researchers used a technique called metagenomics to find several encoded enzymes with the ability to degrade polystyrene and styrene. The long-term goal is to engineer enzymes to degrade plastic waste in recycling plants through mechanical shredding, followed by enzymatic biodegradation.’

The Impact Plastic Is Having On The World

The world produces 381 million tonnes in plastic waste yearly – this is set to double by 2034. With such rapid statistics growing day by day, researches across the globe are working hard to find ways in which we can recycle these products. When plastic waste is not repurposed, the material has dier effects on the world. These products have a deadly impact on wildlife, emit harmful toxins into the atmosphere, and speed up the rate of global warming. This is why finidings such as the above are so important to getting closer to ways in which we can recycle plastic waste effectively.