Wax worms may be a bio-degradable solution for plastic bags.
Scientists have confirmed that wax worms are able to convert non-biodegradable plastic into another molecular compound.
The study was published Monday in the journal Current Biology and is important because it can take microbes and sunlight decades to degrade plastic bags in the environment. As the slow degradation of the plastic bags continues over time, the chemical polyethylene is released into the environment.
Scientists have been studying the effects of plastic bags on ecosystems. While studying a massive pile of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean, scientists found that microbes and sunlight degrade the polyethylene plastic bags into smaller and smaller pieces and the plastic kills ocean algae and marine life, and has been found in the abdominal cavities of fish and birds. The polyethylene plastic is non-biodegradable, according to scientists, who report that plastic molecules later end up in the food and water supplies for humans, too.
The wax worms, which are reported in the study to begin consuming plastic shopping bags within a matter of minutes, convert the polyethylene plastic shopping bags into ethylene glycol.
The scientists’ report explains that more research is needed to determine how the wax worms process the plastic bags, but states that the wax worm feeds on beeswax, and may hold the answer as to why the worms are able to convert a non-biodegradable chemical compound.
The average consumer uses about 3,000 plastic shopping bags each year.
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