The global plastic bag pollution 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 be engineered into an environmentally-friendly solution on an industrial scale.
Around a trillion plastic bags are used around the world each year, of which a huge number find their way into the oceans or are discarded into landfill.
Commonly found living in bee hives, or harvested as fishing bait, the waxworm proved it could eat its way through polyethylene, which is notoriously hard to break down, more than 1,400 times faster than other organisms.
Scientists believe the creature has potent enzymes in its saliva or gut which attack plastic’s chemical bonds, in the same way they digest the complex wax found in hives.
The waxworm’s potential was discovered …