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Scientifics in Australia have found a worm – now known as superworm – that survives eating plastic. According to the research issued by an investigator at the University of Queensland – Australia, the superworms have a special type of enzyme in their intestines that allows them to digest plastic. The proven plastics they can eat are types of polystyrene and styrene. Both materials are used as packaging material for food and cargo, however, each of them has wide uses in daily items.
Styrene has become the largest plastic polymer produced in the world and it is also used in PVC production and tire manufacturing. Likewise, it is extensively used in battery casings and automotive/housing components. Polystyrene is also hugely used to produce lenses, bottle caps, wall tiles, small flasks, boxes, and electrical parts.
The superworms are also eaten by humans in many countries around the world such as Thailand and Mexico. Their size can reach up to 5 cm, and they raise to scavenge bird and reptiles' bodies.
The investigation showed that during the worms' feeding process their weight increased and they were seen eating plastic actively. As a result, they become toxic. After eating plastic, those insects may kill someone due to their increasing contamination.
As the increase in plastic pollution has become a big planet problem with insufficient recycling efforts, these worms seem to be a solution to deal with it. However, this digesting natural system has low capacity and avoids gas emissions, plastic burning, and other harming situations.
Moreover, plastic-eating superworms can eat around 20-30 mg of plastic daily, and that means that at least 30.000 or 40,000 individuals will be required just to eat a small polystyrene coffee cup. Awareness and raising of the species will be needed to ensure one day they deplete our plastic production.
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