Monday, December 28, 2015
“Plastic-eating worms may offer solution to mounting waste, Stanford researchers discover.”
In this article, scientists discover that the common mealworm, Tenebrio molitor can eat Styrofoam and process it into ordinary, non-plastic frass (bug feces). When most animals eat plastic, it usually remains in their bodies – like the items found in the whale stomach on exhibit at Pacific Science Center.
Sometimes the plastic interferes with digesting other things. Even when animals seemed to digest plastic, in fact, it was simply broken up into smaller pieces –still plastic – that are passed as waste. This does not cut down on the amount of plastic waste in the environment. Mealworms, however, are able to reduce the amount of plastic around by breaking apart the plastic in their guts and using it for food.
Scientists hope to replicate the digestive processes in a lab on a large scale to deal with the mountains of discarded packaging.
Scientists are also looking for an aquatic organism capable of breaking down plastic to prevent scenes such as this:
There are huge islands of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean
The idea of a natural solution to cleaning up plastic trash is enticing.
After reading this article, Animal Caretaker Amanda Plemmons immediately thought of the mealworms we rear for feeding our carnivorous and omnivorous animals. Could we replicate the experiment and demonstrate this exciting development? Yes. We could. All we needed, really, were mealworms and Styrofoam.
Grossology® connection, but we have rarely been more excited to watch insects poop!