Could these hipster bugs save the planet?!
Verdugo Hills High School

Caterpillars: A plastic solution?

After years of trying to find a way to get rid of plastic waste, scientists may have finally found a solution in nature. Wax worms, which grow into the Galleria Mellonella moth, have been found capable of ingesting plastic, suggesting a new way to break down the trillion plastic bags the world uses every year.

If used correctly, these caterpillars can be of great use to society, and could easily reduce or stop the high rate of plastic pollution in the world, which happens to increase yearly.

Information from CNN.com explains that the wax worm is apparently not averse to eating plastic. A beekeeper in Spain discovered this when she plucked some of the pests from her beehives and put them in a plastic bag. The worms eventually ate little holes in the bag, chewing through the plastic at a very fast rate. This led to a wonderful idea: what if these so-called pests could actually help break down waste, or the common plastic bags currently clogging up landfills around the world?

To test the caterpillar’s capabilities, researchers gave approximately 100 of them plastic bags. Within 40 minutes, the worms had chewed sizable holes. After 12 hours, they reduced a single bag by 92 milligrams.

The researchers said, “About one-sixth the weight of a typical shopping bag.” The scientists found that the caterpillars broke down polyethylene plastic bags faster than other recently tested methods.

There are still more tests that need to be done, but if scientists can replicate the enzyme radiating from the body of the caterpillar, they could potentially simulate the breakdown, which could successfully destroy plastic clogging the world. The same effect of the plastic breakdown occurs when the caterpillars’ fluids are smeared on a plastic bag as well. Scientists could possibly create a type of formula as an alternative to using the actual bugs as the solution. The idea would be to take the fluids the bugs secrete and turn it into a sort of dissolving spray to get rid of the plastic polluting the world. This solution would be dumped in landfills to effectively clean up the area.

Through the power of science and caterpillars, this could also benefit our world in the future by making it a cleaner and happier environment.

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