Can Waxworms Help Save the Planet by Eating Plastics?

Pollution on Planet Earth: From Theory to Real-time

The ongoing issue of pollution across the globe is no longer a conversation involving speculation and theoretical data. We are now at the point where the consequences of our actions are showing results in real time. This means we can now see that not only that pollution is bad, but now we can also see exactly how it will be changing the Earth through observing the changes around us. In particular, materials that cannot be biodegraded, such as plastics, have been a growing problem with not many widely successful solutions. As the climate changes due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and the diversity of our species continues to decline due to human activities, we must now look towards new and innovative solutions to alleviate the damage that has been done, and also to prevent further generations from damaging our planet’s fragile balance any further. One of the largest issues on our planet is waste management.

How can Little Insects Help?

New studies involving the use of mealworms and other similar insects in the treatment of wastes created by humans, particularly plastics, has claimed to have made amazing new discoveries involving these small insects. Even claims that this new recycling process is able to process previously un-biodegradable materials, such as styrofoam, into 100% biodegradable material has been suggested by various sources. Let’s take a closer look at the efforts being made to help alleviate our ongoing pollution problem across the globe using these little insects.

Does the Waxworm show Promise?

According to an article in Environmental Science and Technology, written by co-authors Professor Jun Yang and Yu Yang of Beihang University(doctorate student of Prof. Jun Yang’s) and Stanford University engineer Wei-Min Wu, results from recent waxwormsstudies suggest that polyethylene can be biodegraded by certain strains of bacteria found in the digestive organs of the certain insects, in particular Waxworms, or the larvae of the Plodia interpunctellas.  Waxworms are commonly farmed for distribution and used in feeding regiments for pets, including many types of reptiles.  After isolating two bacteria strains (Enterobacter asburiae YT1 and Bacillus sp. YP1) from the gut of the waxworms, researchers exposed polyethylene films with each of the bacteria for an incubation period of 28 days.  While observing using atomic force microscopy and electron scanning microscopy, physical damage could be seen in the form of pitting up to 0.3–0.4 μm in depth.  Also, over a 60 day incubation period is was found that the polyethylene film had lost molecular weight.  12 distinct ‘daughter products’ were also detected and found to be water-soluble.

See the Full Article “Evidence of Polyethylene Biodegradation by Bacterial Strains from the Guts of Plastic-Eating Waxworms” Here.

So What does this all Mean?

The findings of this new study involving waxworms and biodegradable polyethylene appear to demonstrate the idea that polyethylene is biodegradable in the guts of the waxworm.  Another suggestion formulated by this research is that polyethylene biodegradation may occur in the natural environment.  This basically means that waxworms, and other similar gut-bacteria carrying insects may be breaking plastics down, at least polyethylene, into biodegradable material out in the natural environment.  The most beneficial effect this new information may have is on the industries that are making plastics and managing wastes.  Waste management processes can be altered to biodegrade plastics, and also plastics can be made to be more easily biodegradable through these newly utilized processes.

How Can You Help Save our Beautiful Planet | Share positive ideas and educated awareness

Share positive ideas and educated awareness.  Many people have the idea that some large company will organization will save the endangered species, and stop climate change before it is too late.  This is unfortunately not the case.  We have already lost many battles.  No one stepped in to save the Eastern Cougar, or the last Western Black Rhino.  These animals will never be seen again.  Our children can only learn about them through stories, pictures and movies now.  Some species we do not even have pictures to remember them by. These things will be gone forever, lost for all future generations.  We continue to lose species to extinction on a yearly basis on our planet, and the attempts to reduce the effects so far do not outweigh the detrimental activities we as humans do.  Often we donate money in order to support causes to help the save species and reduce pollution to the environment.

Are Donations Enough?

Fundraising is making a difference, but this is not enough.  We need to look towards ourselves.  We cannot solely rely on groups with limited funding to fight the battles that will affect us all.  In order to save this beautiful planet and all the amazing species that make it their home, we must change our way of thinking; change how we influence the world around us.  We have so much influence, and it is rarely used in beneficial ways.  For example, through social media, one can see how fast ideas can spread or impact the audiences they are seen by.  It is shameful to see so many people using their influence to spread senseless, harmful ideas.  Negativity and ignorance spreads like crazy on these social media platforms because that is what is promoted.  We need to change what we promote.  Also, when we see something negative we can choose not to look.  If every single person that read this article posted a positive message, you can be confident that many who view the positive message will share it with some of their audience.  Even if a small percent shared the message, it would have an enormous effect.  Through this influence we can help spread awareness by sharing our knowledge on the subject that we are passionate about teaching.  The power to change the world is in each and every one us.

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