It might sound bizarre but it is true. According to the latest research, wax worm, a type of caterpillar, commercially bred for fishing bait, can be the solution for the world's plastic problem. Scientists stated that the insect has the ability to even biodegrade the toughest polyethylene.
The discovery occurred when scientist Federica Bertocchini, from the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (CSIC), Spain, an amateur beekeeper, found holes in the temporary plastic bag where the worms were kept. Immediately, Bertocchini collaborated with colleagues Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge's Department of Biochemistry to conduct a timed experiment.
The experiment had hundreds of wax worms exposed to a plastic bag and interestingly, holes started appearing in just 40 minutes. In addition to it, there was a reduction in the weight of the plastic bag by 92mg in just 12 hours.
"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," Dr. Bertocchini told BBC. "However, we should not feel justified in dumping polyethylene deliberately in our environment just because we now know how to bio-degrade it."
Wax worms is a scourge of beehives across Europe that lives as parasites in bee colonies. It lays the egg and hatches it inside the hives. On the other hand, polyethylene accounts almost half of the world's plastic discard. It is estimated that the world use around a trillion plastic bags every single year.
A report on The Guardian opined, "These are the real reasons why the new discovery is promising, and not because we'll soon be feeding plastic bags to caterpillars. As usual with science, you don't get the solution on a plate but have to follow clues with patience and care. It doesn't make for great headlines. But honestly, the bees would thank you for it."
Since plastic is considered as highly resistant to breaking down, the environment is in serious danger and its looks like nature itself might provide us with the best answer.