A Unique Caterpillar Might Be Able to Help Get Rid of Plastic Waste

As a human species, we produce a lot of waste, especially when it comes to plastic. In fact, according to the EPA, we produce more than 300 million tons of plastic waste every single year, 91 percent of which is not even recycled. But recent studies might suggest that there is a light at the end of the growing plastic waste tunnel. Scientists and researchers have discovered a particularly unique caterpillar species that will eat, but more importantly, easily digest, plastic. That’s right; a caterpillar might be the answer to efficient and renewable plastic waste bio-degradation.

Continue reading to learn more, including how you can step up your recycling game at home and in the office.

Larvae of the Greater Wax Moth (Wax Worm)
Larvae of the Greater Wax Moth (Wax Worm)

The Greater Wax Moth

More commonly referred to as a wax worm, the larvae of the Greater Wax Moth will eat any type of plastic. Back in 2017, it was discovered that these larvae could digest the stuff. Now, as recently as last week, a new study published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, explains how these little critters can accomplish such a feat. This information about the digestive process of the wax worm is very exciting because it can help us learn how to break down plastic and reduce the waste in our landfills.

So How Do These Worms Digest Plastic?

Scientists and researchers have figured out that the wax worm retains certain microorganisms in their gut microbiomes that can degrade and process plastic. Furthermore, they learned that these caterpillars could thrive on nothing but plastic for at least a year. Data from this study showed that wax works actually create more of these microorganisms on a plastic-only diet, meaning the more plastic they eat, the more bacteria their gut produces to effectively break it all down.

According to associate professor and chair of biology at Brandon University in Canada, Christophe LeMoine, “”We found that wax worm caterpillars are endowed with gut microbes that are essential in the plastic biodegradation process (…) This process seems reliant on a synergy between the caterpillars and their gut bacteria to accelerate polyethylene degradation.”

Did You Know Other Creatures Can Eat Plastic?

These caterpillars are unique in that they can digest plastic, but they are not alone. There are at least 50 known species, referred to as plastivores, that can do the same to some or equal degree. However, the wax worm is the most adept. But we cannot rely on a worm species to take care of our plastic waste problem; it is important for all of us to try to reduce our plastic consumption and recycle as much as we can.

How to Recycle Near You

If you are interested in contributing to the preservation of our Earth’s natural resources, all you have to do is start recycling! Start by looking for a local recycling center to provide you with information about residential and commercial recycling pickup services and more. Many materials can be recycled, including plastic and paper; but one of the most important elements to re-purpose is metal.

Indianapolis Metal Recycling Services

Contact Zore’s Recycling at 317-244-0700 to recycle metal in Central Indiana. We provide professional Indianapolis scrap metal recycling services for all metal scrap and equipment, regardless of age or condition. Best of all, we pay cash on the spot for them! Our complex is conveniently located on Indy’s West side, right off of Mickley Avenue, so there is never any trouble finding or entering our grounds. And although we are based out of Indianapolis, we serve all of Central Indiana. Request a free estimate, today.