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Old 25 April 2017, 02:23 PM
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thorny locust thorny locust is offline
 
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Default Stubborn plastic may have finally met its match: the hungry wax worm

Story here.

Quote:
Scientists have discovered that the larvae of the wax moth will easily munch through a common plastic known as polyethylene, turning it into back into a useful compound found in all kinds of consumer products.

The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, reveal an unlikely ally in the fight to reduce and reuse the enormous amounts of plastic waste that humans produce every year.
-- it's not clear from the story whether total breakdown was accomplished, or how many larvae you'd need per plastic bag, or what else you'd need to provide them with to keep them healthy while they were doing it. (Or, I suppose, whether you'd need the larvae themselves or just some bit of their gut flora, if it can survive outside them: note this quote from the study itself, which is linked in the article.)

Quote:
It is not clear whether the hydrocarbon-digesting activity of G. mellonella derives from the organism itself, or from enzymatic activities of its intestinal flora
But it does sound cautiously encouraging.
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Old 25 April 2017, 08:37 PM
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Looking forward to further research on the possibilities here!!
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Old 26 April 2017, 02:05 PM
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Seaboe Muffinchucker Seaboe Muffinchucker is offline
 
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Glasses

I suspect part of the problem will be getting them to the existing buried plastic. This makes me wonder about other petroleum based substances*. Will they eat oil products?

Seaboe

*I don't believe plastics are actually made out of petroleum anymore, but surely they're still related, chemically. Aren't they?
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Old 26 April 2017, 03:14 PM
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I look forward to serving our mutated giant worm over-lords...



This is news to be cautiously optimistic about, as long as someone doesn't go overboard and try to create a species that can eat more (quantity-wise) and more (type-wise).
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Old 26 April 2017, 09:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
I suspect part of the problem will be getting them to the existing buried plastic. This makes me wonder about other petroleum based substances*. Will they eat oil products?

Seaboe

*I don't believe plastics are actually made out of petroleum anymore, but surely they're still related, chemically. Aren't they?
Most plastics are made from crude oil, as they always have been. Polyethylene (the plastic the bugs appear to eat) is just a very long hydrocarbon (the simplest kind of organic molecule) and can be thought of as gasoline's much larger sibling. Chemically they are quite similar, physically the polyethylene is a solid under most conditions.
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Old 27 April 2017, 01:21 AM
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This is now reminding me of the plot of the children's book "Fuzzy Mud."
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