Researchers have found that mealworms might help solve the global plastic pollution problem by eating the Styrofoam and plastic that contributes to the world’s excess waste.     

 

Mealworms

Mealworms eat through styrofoam, helping the environment with little to no human action taken. (inhabitat.com)

According to recent studies published in Environmental Science and Technology, mealworms are able to biodegrade the polyethylene they ingest with help from microorganisms in their gut. In fact, mealworms could live off of eating just plastic waste and help fight pollution by doing so. These findings come from Beihang University Professor Jun Yang, his student Yu Yang, and Stanford University engineer Wei-Min Wu.

 

Their research showed that 100 mealworms could eat 34 to 39 milligrams of Styrofoam each day, and their overall health didn’t decrease from this diet. The plastic these mealworms ate turned into biodegradable waste, which could then be mixed into soil when growing crops. These findings come at a time when a solution for global pollution is desperately needed.

 

“The findings are revolutionary. This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in environmental science in the past 10 years,” said Wu.          

 

Water bottles spread around on the ground

Plastic products, like these water bottles, take a long time to break down and wreak havoc on the environment.

Plastic pollution has been growing rapidly across the world in recent years, and this type of waste has been harmful to marine life. Science Magazine reported that in 2010, between 10.5 billion to 28 billion pounds of plastic made its way into the ocean. China was the top contributor of plastic pollution in 2010 after the country was found responsible for dumping almost 5 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean. Unless change is enacted soon, China is projected to contribute almost 40 billion pounds of plastic pollution annually by 2025.     

 

The problem with plastic waste is that there are very few ways to properly deal with it. One of the most effective measures to reduce plastic pollution is to recycle, but few people actually recycle their garbage. About 33 million tons of plastic is produced in the United States every year, but less than 10 percent of it is actually recycled.

 

Mealworms could be a huge help in the fight against plastic pollution, but they won’t be able to completely eliminate the problem. Even if mealworms are used to reduce plastic waste, Wu has stated that recycling is still an important part of the process, and that “we shouldn’t waste plastic anywhere.”     

 

Will mealworms end up being used to eat our plastic waste? How can recycling become more prevalent in the United States? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.