Bhubaneswar: Researchers have recently found that Zophobas Morio, commonly known as a superworm, can survive on a diet of polystyrene.
Australian scientists say species of insect larvae with a taste for plastic could help revolutionise recycling. They believe that the beetle larvae digest the plastic through a gut enzyme that could be significant for advancements in recycling.
“Superworms are like mini recycling plants, shredding the polystyrene with their mouths and then feeding it to the bacteria in their gut,” said scientist Dr Chris Rinke as quote by BBC.
The University of Queensland team fed three groups of superworms different diets over three weeks. The batch that ate polystyrene even put on weight.
The team found several enzymes in the superworm’s gut have the ability to degrade polystyrene and styrene. Both are common in takeaway containers and other items such as insulation and car parts. But the research is unlikely to lead to massive worm farms that double as recycling plants. Instead, they hope to identify which enzyme is the most effective so it can be reproduced at scale for recycling, BBC reported.
Plastic would then be mechanically shredded, before being treated with the enzyme, said the research published in Microbial Genomics.
“The breakdown products from this reaction can then be used by other microbes to create high-value compounds such as bioplastics,” Rinke said.
[Note: This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’, an awareness campaign by Sambad Digital.]