Scientists have discovered something that can break down all the plastic bags that populate the world’s landfills: wax worm saliva.
Wax worms — which are moth larvae that infest beehives — have an enzyme in their saliva that breaks down polyethylene in just a few hours, according to Dr. Federica Bertocchini of the Biological Research Centre in Madrid. Polyethylene comprises 30 percent of all plastic production and is a primary ingredient in plastic bags. “My beehives were plagued with wax worms, so I started cleaning them, putting the worms in a plastic bag,” Bertocchini says. “After a while, I noticed lots of holes and we found it wasn’t only chewing; it was a chemical breakdown. So that was the beginning of the story.”
Bertocchini is calling worm saliva “a depository of degrading enzymes which could revolutionize the cleanup of polluting waste.”
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