Recycling plastics is a worldwide problem, each year millions of tons of plastic are dumped polluting the top of Everest, the deepest oceans and thousands of places in between. Any effort that could help towards recycling plastic is therefore good news. One of the most promising way is found in the saliva of wax worms. It began when an amateur beekeeper was cleaning out beehives removing the wax worms which normally feed on the wax in the honeycombs. They were placed in a plastic bag. Several hours later, the bags had holes, the kind of holes that suggest a chemical breakdown. The saliva of wax worms it turns out have some 200 enzymes, out of these 2 work to decompose polyethylene and does so at room temperature over a few hours. Polyethylene makes up about 30% of plastic production. It is used in bags and packaging and makes up a large portion of plastic pollution. Using wax worms saliva does require more research, perhaps the chemical breakdown could create valuable chemicals or even help to create a new plastic. The enzymes could overcome what has been a bottleneck in plastic degradation, and the fact they work at normal temperature without requiring high heat is an advantage. Commercial applications are a ways off, but scientists would love to be able to have home kits available to anyone to be able to recycle plastic bags, maybe into useful products.
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Great news. Hope it works out!
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