Pinning hope on Mealworms to eradicate plastic pollution

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styrofoam chewing mealworms

Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle.The bacteria present in the gut of worm breaks plastic components such as polystyrene and styrofoam into biodegrade.

Research involved:

Mealworms in lab under reported experiment ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam – about the weight of a small pill – per day. The worms converted about half of the Styrofoam into carbon dioxide, as they would with any food source.Within 24 hours, they excreted the bulk of the remaining plastic as biodegraded fragments that look similar to tiny rabbit droppings. Mealworms fed a steady diet of Styrofoam were as healthy as those eating a normal diet and their waste appeared to be safe to use as soil for crops.

Understanding of bacterial enzymes involved in plastic digestion can offer cues for further research and its application in real scenario

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