November 28, 2022

Dubai Week

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Small insects can contribute to plastic recycling

Small insects can contribute to plastic recycling

Many scientists have discovered that worms can be an effective tool to remove polystyrene that pollutes the oceans and threatens marine life.
Polystyrene is one of the plastic types in many consumer products, such as packaging and disposable cutlery.
Since recycling is not immediately available, these insects can form part of the solution for contamination with this substance.
According to researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, thanks to their intestinal enzymes, the larvae of the Zophobus morio beetle are a way to achieve greater plastic recycling.
Previous research has shown that small wax and food worms (they are beetle larvae) are known to be plastic consumers, said Chris Ringe, who directed the study, which was published in the journal Microbial Genomics.
“So, we think big super worms can eat more,” he added.
Super worms can reach up to five centimeters in size and are bred in some countries as a food source for reptiles, birds or humans.
Ringe and his team fed the super worms three different types of food for three weeks. Polystyrene for some, bran for others, the third group gave nothing.
Researchers also say that cats need to be included in any precautionary measures against the virus. “
Although polystyrene-fed superworms complete their life cycle and turn into adult beetles, tests have shown that they have no microbial diversity in their gut and that they contain pathogenic components.
These results show that insects can only eat polystyrene, but this food is not nutritious and can affect their health.
In the next step, the team sought metagenomic technology to analyze the microbial diversity in the gut and find out what kind of genetically encoded enzyme is responsible for the biodegradation of plastic.
One way to use the results is to feed food waste or agricultural bio-products to superworms for consumption with polystyrene.
“It could be a way to improve the health of the worms and solve the problem of high levels of food waste in Western countries,” Renke said.
While one possible way to grow more worms to achieve this goal is to set up recycling plants that mimic what the larvae do, which is to first shred the plastic and then dispose of it.
“Ultimately what we want is to remove super worms from the equation,” the researcher said, adding that he plans to conduct further research to identify the most effective enzymes and then work on improving the enzymes in engineering.

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