In a ground-breaking discovery, researchers have unexpectedly explored a new way to disintegrate polyethylene, which plays a significant role in contributing to land pollution in the form of waste materials. According to researchers, the saliva of wax worms has the capability to eventually break down the material used in these plastic bags, and if researchers become successful in deploying these wax worms efficiently and on a large scale for this purpose, it could be a win-win situation and would contribute to the sustainability of our planet.
Coupled with this, it should be noted that polyethylene makes up 30% of plastic pollution, and as per The Guardian, the effective use of this technique will prevent us from a lot of upcoming trouble. We should also be able to recycle waste materials and use them in an efficient manner. Federica Bertocchini, from the Biological Research Centre in Madrid, who is also the co-author of a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, stated, “My beehives were plagued with wax worms, so I started cleaning them, putting the worms in a plastic bag.”
In addition, the existing methods used to disintegrate polyethylene incorporate the process through “mechanical breakdown”. However, one of the downsides of this method is that the end product resulting from it would make the quality of the material very poor, weaker, and less pure than before. On the other hand, the saliva of wax worms contains such enzymes that can carry out the process effectively at “room temperature, in water, and at neutral pH levels.” This opposes the conditions required in the existing technique, which performs the process in a high-temperature environment and the pH is also set at an “acidic” level that makes it a controlled process rather than natural.
To that end, Bertocchini further stated, “After a while, I noticed lots of holes, and we found it wasn’t only chewing, it was [chemical breakdown], so that was the beginning of the story.” Similarly, Clemente Arias, who is Bertocchini’s colleague and co-author, said, “We need to do a lot of research and think about how to develop this new strategy to deal with plastic waste.”