Researchers at Stanford University have discovered a new way of dealing with plastic waste – by feeding it to mealworms.
The study allowed mealworms to feast upon styrofoam waste, and the results suggest that their digestive bacteria were able to safely process the petrochemical polymer. Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford, says that these findings “have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem”.
As unbelievable as it sounds, the collaborative research between Stanford and the Jun Yang of Beihang University in China concludes that the process is clean and safe. 100 mealworms were able to digest between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam per day, only emitting carbon dioxide, which researchers point out would be released regardless of the type of food eaten by the larvae.
Needless to say, further studies will be required before this becomes a serious option for plastics waste. While governments, manufacturers and the public agree that plastic waste is a growing global problem, this process is still fundamentally an ‘end of pipe’ option and diverts attention from addressing the negative impacts of plastic at the initial design stage.
Of course there is an overwhelming volume of existing plastic for mealworms get their teeth into, but potential ‘rebound effects’ would need to be considered. For example, the research has not yet stated whether these mealworms could safely biodegrade after styrofoam consumption, or whether they could be eaten by other animals, as insects are increasingly on the menu for humans and animals alike. As yet, it remains to be seen whether this waste solution could support the transition to a regenerative and restorative circular economy.
The post Could mealworms help solve the plastic waste problem? appeared first on Circulate.
Source: Circulate News RSS