Plastic pollution is one of the major issues which needs to be solved. Around 80 million tonnes of plastic polyethylene is produced around the world every year. Scientists have come across the solution that could solve this issue and that’s solution is a caterpillar. Federica Bertocchini, a researcher at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of moth called as Galleria mellonella have a tendency to degrade and decompose the toughest, most resilient plastic: polyethylene.
Dr. Paolo Bombelli, a biochemist at the University of Cambridge said, “The caterpillar will be the starting point. We need to find out and understand the details under which this process operates. If this chemical process solution is identified we could get a solution to manage the plastic waste in the environment. On the other hand, we will simultaneously work out to provide the technical solution for minimizing the problem of plastic waste.”
Later the researchers found out that the wax worms were not just simply ingesting the plastic but were also transforming the polyethylene into the see-through alcohol called as ethylene glycol which is a translucent alcohol. These wax moths are particularly found widely in Europe and eastern North America who lay their eggs inside beehives.
‘Wax is a polymer, a sort of ‘natural plastic,’ and has a chemical structure not dissimilar to polyethylene,’ Dr. Bertocchini said. “We are planning to implement this finding into a viable way to get rid of plastic waste, working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers, and all the environment from the unavoidable consequences of plastic accumulation,” he further added.
As we have got the solution to degrade the polyethylene waste that doesn’t mean we would start dumping the waste purposely in our environment. According to the paper published in Current Biology, the wax worms naturally hatch and grow on beeswax, which comprises a highly diverse mixture of lipid compounds. It’s likely that digesting beeswax and polyethylene involves breaking down similar types of chemical bonds.