Foaming at the mouth: the superworms making a meal of polystyrene waste

11 Jul, 2022
Image: University of Queensland

Beetle larvae that can shred and eat polystyrene may provide alternative methods of breaking down and upcycling plastic waste, new research suggests.

The larvae of Zophobas morio, a species of beetle, are commonly known as superworms and contain several gut enzymes that are capable of digesting polystyrene, Australian scientists have found.

Polystyrene is a widely used plastic, found in its solid form in everyday items such as containers, lids and disposable cutlery. Polystyrene foam is used in packaging and as an insulation material.

For three weeks, researchers at the University of Queensland fed superworms a polystyrene foam commonly used in building insulation.

Across the world, microbes are evolving the ability to break down plastic. The first bacteria with the ability were discovered in 2016 in a Japanese dump.

Source: The Guardian

Image: University of Queensland

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