Can Plastic-Eating Worms Save the Day?
Plastic was first produced in 1907, and began being used regularly in the 1950's. At that point, the world produced about 2 million tons a year. Since then, humans' plastic use has increased tremendously. Today, humans produce 380 million tons of plastic every year, which is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world's population. Some reports say that 50 percent of that plastic is for single-use purposes.
Plastic is disposed of in three main ways: it is discarded, incinerated, and recycled. Much plastic ends up in landfills, where it takes a plastic bag 10 to 100 years to degrade.
It's no secret that we need to do something about plastic pollution on this planet. The landfills are full of it, and, increasingly, so are the oceans. It's one of those things everybody knows about, but nobody is sure what to do about.
Wouldn't it be great if there was a natural way to actually get rid of plastic? Well, there might be.
In 2017 researchers in Spain and England found that the larvae of the greater wax moth, also called a wax worm, can degrade polyethylene, which makes up 40 percent of plastics and is one of the toughest kinds of plastic to break down. In an experiment, they left 100 wax worms on a plastic shopping bag for 12 hours to see what would happen. Lo and behold, the wax worms ate about 3 percent of the bag (92 milligrams).
It turns out the wax worms traditionally feed on beeswax, and that their ability to break down this substance translates to breaking down plastic as well. A co-author of the study, Federica Bertocchini, a biologist at Spain's Institute of Biomedicine & Biotechnology of Cantabria, told *Scientific American,* "Wax is a complex mixture of molecules, but the basic bond in polyethylene, the carbon-carbon bond, is there as well. The wax worm evolved a mechanism to break this bond."
Bertocchini went on to say she hopes her team’s findings might one day be used to help break down plastics in landfills and the ocean.
At Farm to Fit, we think a lot about plastic and the footprint of the delivery business. According to the National University of Singapore, the average delivered meal uses an average of 2.8 single-use plastic items or an estimated 54 grams of plastic. To combat the plastic used for our delivery business, we partner with rePurpose Global to fund the collection of plastic waste from oceans and landfills. For every product we sell, we donate a percentage towards this effort. Because of this, we are proud to say that Farm to Fit carries a Net Zero Plastic Footprint.
Until worms are ready to fully combat the plastic problem, we're doing our part!