Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Awesome Worm Eats The Scourge Of The Earth: Plastic Bags. Seriously!

Will it be waxworms to the rescue in the war against
those awful plastic grocery bags?
The latest thing on environmentalists' hit list is all those plastic bags you take home from the grocery store or wherever.

They don't break down easily. They get caught in the wind and hang themselves up in trees and wires and such and look horrible. They waste space in landfills.

A lot of local and some state goverments have either banned or are considering banning these bags. It's the lateset environmental movement du jour.

Even if we stopped providing all those plastic bags tomorrow, what about the zillions of them that already exist? What do we do with them?

One answer: Wax worms.

Bear with me on this one.

According to Atlas Obscura, scientists have tried to get bacteria and fungus to break down these plastics, and they can, but the process is painfully slow. So slow that it's not worth the effort.

However, was worms are awesome. Says Atlas Obscura: 

"Frederica Bertocchini, a biologist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology in Spain, noticed wax works had managed to eat their way through the plastic bags they were kept in. While other organisms can take weeks or months to break down even the smallest amount of plastic, the wax worm can get through more - in a far shorter period of time. 

The researchers let 100 wax worms chow down on a plastic grocery bag, and after just 12 hours, they'd eaten about 4 percent of the bag, according to findings publishes Monday in the journal Current Biology. 

That may not sound like much, but that's a vast improvement over fungi, which weren't able to break down a noticeable amount of polyetheylene after six months."

The theory is that if you get a HUGE crowd of wax worms working together, they can make real progress in the plastic bag wars.

By the way, the worms aren't just good chewers. They break down the plastic into ethylene glycol, which you can use to make polyester or antifreeze.

Great. Maybe the wax worms an also produce ways to keep your car running when it's 30 below, or create tacky 1970s-style fashion.


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