A larva which devours plastic – a new hope for the environment
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
A larva capable of devouring polyethylene has been discovered. Polyethylene is one of the most resistant plastics used in a multitude of packaging. It offers scientists and society the prospect of biodegrading this pollutant, which is accumulating within the environment, in particular throughout the oceans.
Federica Bertocchini explains, “Plastic waste is a global environmental problem. This is especially the case with polyethylene. The substance is particularly resistant and very difficult to degrade naturally.”
Bertocchini, a researcher at the Spanish Centre for National Research (known as the CSIC), who has discovered this wax moth larva (Galleria mellonella) in beeswax, says that it proves to be a highly widespread moth.
Each year, some 80 million tonnes of polyethylene are produced globally. The researchers, whose discovery was published yesterday (Monday) in the American review Current Biology, have stated this.
This larva species, commercially produced in large numbers to act as fish bait is in its natural form a beehive parasite, which literally nests in beeswax throughout Europe.
The lead scientist, also an amateur beekeeper, observed that plastic bags into which she placed beeswax infected by this parasite were quickly riddled with holes.
Other experiments with a supermarket bag in the UK, subjected to around a hundred of these larvae, have demonstrated that the larvae are capable of damaging plastic in under an hour.