Tag Archives: enzymes

The lowly caterpillar and plastics.

It seems that scientists have discovered something that could have great consequences in reducing pollution from plastic bags. Caterpillars of the greater wax moth seem to have the ability to degrade polyethylene, the material used in plastic bags.

Scientists have exposed a hundred wax worms of the caterpillar moth to a plastic bag and holes appeared after 40 minutes. It seems that it is the chemicals in the caterpillars that break down the plastics and not the chewing of the plastics by the worms.

Hopefully if a single enzyme is responsible for this degradation then it could be possible to reproduce on a large scale using technology. Polyethylene represents 40% of the total demand for plastic products. It would therefore be possible to get rid of the plastic wastes that have accumulated in landfills as well as in the oceans. A truly remarkable discovery!

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