London: The global plastic bag crisis could be solved by a waxworm capable of eating through the material at “uniquely high speeds”, scientists have announced.
Researchers have described the tiny caterpillar’s ability to break down even the toughest plastics as “extremely exciting” and said the discovery could offer an environmentally friendly solution on an industrial scale.
Around a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, of which a huge number find their way into the oceans or are discarded into landfill.
The waxworm, commonly found living in bee hives or harvested as fishing bait, proved it could eat its way through polyethylene, which is notoriously hard to break down, more than 1400 times faster than other organisms.
Scientists believe the worm has enzymes in its saliva or gut that attack plastic’s chemical bonds, in the same way they digest the wax found in hives.
The waxworm’s potential was discovered when Federica Bertocchini, a biologist and amateur …