Science Snippet: Digesting Plastics

Now here is some good news. Researchers in Spain and England discovered that worm-like larvae of the greater wax moth are capable of breaking down polyethylene, which makes up about 40 percent of plastics. The main diet of these larvae is beeswax, and over time they evolved gut enzymes to efficiently degrade both beeswax and now, plastics. The hope is that if the gut enzymes can be isolated and synthesized on an industrial level they might be used to help deal with the 300 metric tons of plastics made each year. I am old enough to recall reading news articles that claimed plastics will have a major impact on man. It’s a prediction that came true, complete with unintended consequences. (Scientific American, 2017, Aug., p. 21)

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