Cambridge University researchers have discovered that a caterpillar can eat plastic. Scientists conducted experiments and found a caterpillar that traditionally eats wax found in beehives can break down the chemical components of plastic.
Around the world, manufacturers produce 80 million tons of plastic each year. The plastic is used to make a variety of things including shopping bags, toys, and the packaging around food products. Currently, it takes hundreds of years for the plastic to decompose. However, larvae of a particular type of moth, wax moth Galleria mellonella, can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.
Dr. Paolo Bombelli, a biochemist at Cambridge University and researcher in the study, explained that the Caterpillar would be the starting point. The next step will be to understand how this process operates. Ultimately, Dr. Bombelli hopes to provide a technical solution for decreasing the amount of plastic waste.
At this time, researchers believe microbes living within the Caterpillar as well as the insect itself may play a role in breaking down the plastic. If scientists can discover the chemical process, then it could lead to a solution to decreasing the amount of plastic waste on planet Earth.
Researchers are planning to create and find a viable way to get rid of plastic waste and work on a solution to save the environment.
Finding this caterpillar marks the first step to biodegrade plastic. Researchers published the study in the Journal of Current Biology.