Sciencemadness Discussion Board
Not logged in [Login ]
Go To Bottom

Printable Version  
Author: Subject: Bugs Eat Plastic.....yeah
CharlieA
National Hazard
****




Posts: 645
Registered: 11-8-2015
Location: Missouri, USA
Member Is Offline

Mood: No Mood

[*] posted on 16-10-2022 at 15:09
Bugs Eat Plastic.....yeah


I found a short blurb in our local newspaper reporting on molecular biologist Federica Bertocchi who led a study reported in the journal Nature Communications (no other reference). "Two substances in the saliva of wax worms - moth larvae that eat wax made by bees to build honeycombs - readily break down a common type of plastic." The plastic was polyethylene.

I understand that these types of studies have been s topic of research for quite a while.

I'm sure waxworms will not starve even if all the bees disappear from earth!:D
View user's profile View All Posts By User
mayko
International Hazard
*****




Posts: 1218
Registered: 17-1-2013
Location: Carrboro, NC
Member Is Offline

Mood: anomalous (Euclid class)

[*] posted on 16-10-2022 at 20:12


I tried this with some meal worms... eventually they died but I think it was from too little water.
There's some background in these papers; it's basically a symbiosis between the bug (which physically shreds the plastic into manageable pieces) and a gut microbe (which biochemically degrades it)

https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=10...




al-khemie is not a terrorist organization
"Chemicals, chemicals... I need chemicals!" - George Hayduke
"Wubbalubba dub-dub!" - Rick Sanchez
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
j_sum1
Administrator
********




Posts: 6194
Registered: 4-10-2014
Location: Unmoved
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have your self a chemy little Christmas.

[*] posted on 16-10-2022 at 21:11


This is a good start. But, as with anything in the biosphere, it opens up other critical questions:
How much plastic will be eaten?
At what rate?
What else is needed for the bugs to survive? What abiotic conditions do they need?
What are the other environmental impacts of a population increase in these bugs?


It is possible to begin with a promising concept and still create something non-sustainable, or worse, having a negative environmental impact.

When it comes to polymer waste, I personally am in favour of high-temperature incineration, gas scrubbing and energy harvesting as a disposal mechanism. Preferably at a small scale so as to minimise total transportation of the waste material.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Bedlasky
International Hazard
*****




Posts: 1213
Registered: 15-4-2019
Location: Period 5, group 6
Member Is Offline

Mood: Volatile

[*] posted on 17-10-2022 at 13:34


Few years ago I read about some bacteria eating PET. It decompose PET using some enzymes and ethylene glycol was actual food source for bacteria.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
CharlieA
National Hazard
****




Posts: 645
Registered: 11-8-2015
Location: Missouri, USA
Member Is Offline

Mood: No Mood

[*] posted on 17-10-2022 at 14:22


@Mayko: thanks for the reference. I downloaded them and now I just have to read (and understand, hopefully) them.

@j_sum1: I imagine like most things, the ultimate(?) answer will be a bunch of things. Probably they will be the ones underwritten (supported) by governments. Ideally there would be a solution that would be very highly efficient, very easy, and very cheap! ;) ...I'm not asking for much, am I (well maybe some stock in such a wonderful enterprise. :D

@Bedlasky: The bacteria that will eat PET will certainly never go hungry!
View user's profile View All Posts By User
j_sum1
Administrator
********




Posts: 6194
Registered: 4-10-2014
Location: Unmoved
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have your self a chemy little Christmas.

[*] posted on 17-10-2022 at 14:39


I guess my point is that we tend to underestimate the interconnectedness in ecosystems and there is often a large uncalculated ripple effect when we introduce changes. Introduction of plastic-eating bugs sounds great but it is not guaranteed to have an overall net benefit. And even if it is an improvement, there is always the chance that other problems may be introduced.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
CharlieA
National Hazard
****




Posts: 645
Registered: 11-8-2015
Location: Missouri, USA
Member Is Offline

Mood: No Mood

[*] posted on 18-10-2022 at 13:47


Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1  
I guess my point is that we tend to underestimate the interconnectedness in ecosystems and there is often a large uncalculated ripple effect when we introduce changes. Introduction of plastic-eating bugs sounds great but it is not guaranteed to have an overall net benefit. And even if it is an improvement, there is always the chance that other problems may be introduced.


j_sum1: I agree with you completely. When you choose any process to do something, I think you hope that, at best, you are choosing the lesser of two evils. I guess the ideal process would be one that used abundant starting materials that were consumed 100% in making product...oh and also, no energy would be required by the process, and no energy would be produced by the process!:D
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Dr.Bob
International Hazard
*****




Posts: 2633
Registered: 26-1-2011
Location: USA - NC
Member Is Offline

Mood: No Mood

[*] posted on 20-10-2022 at 10:16


There are also many bacteria that eat crude oil, as it has been seeping into the ocean and rivers for many years in places like Oil City, PA, Le Brea, most of the Gulf Coast, and Jed Clampit's backyard. I think they have found a few more bacteria that eat other plastics, although most are too slow to make a difference. If they made plastics out of biosave monomers, they would degrade faster, such as polyamides made from amino acids (like silk and wool), and poly esters made from naturally occuring acids and alcohols. I would be happy with a plastic that degraded in 10 years even, as long as it held together long enough to use.

I see biodegradable straws now, which are certainly better than the paper ones they keep trying here to save the ocean (which is funny in that we are nowhere near the ocean). But I would hate for some germs to eat my shorts or T-shirt. I read that there is a growing shortage of cotton, so that is one reason synthetics are becoming more popular, as apparel makers cannot get enough cotton now. Especially this year after Pakastan's crop was mostly wiped out from flooding.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
mayko
International Hazard
*****




Posts: 1218
Registered: 17-1-2013
Location: Carrboro, NC
Member Is Offline

Mood: anomalous (Euclid class)

[*] posted on 20-10-2022 at 18:37


One cool thing I forgot to mention is that if you put your ear to the container you can hear the bugs as they wiggle and chew on the styrofoam ... ASMR on demand!

I have a worm bucket in my kitchen ... long story short I had to downsize last year from a house with a compost pile to an apartment (kinda salty about the situation still). I've tried experimenting with in-house composting, but I usually ran into problems with 1) waterlogging and putrefecation at the bottom and 2) the sheer volume of kitchen waste produced relative to the decomposition rate.

I've been able to deal with 1 with two buckets, one with holes drilled in the bottom inside of a second to catch "compost tea" (I've had problems with it being too salty to use on plants though).

2 was harder, until I got easy access to liquid nitrogen. Now about once a week I take the scraps out of the freezer and dunk them in the nitrogen until they're brittle, then throw them in the blender. At the end I have a few cups of a multicolor powder. This helps to reduce bulk and to speed decomposition... imagine you're a worm and you encounter a whole banana peel, where would you even start? Mix the powder with some sand, coffee grounds, and paper shreds, and it's halfway to dirt before the worms get to it.

Anyway, you can hear the same sort of quiet seething in the worm bucket, squishier-sounding though :P







al-khemie is not a terrorist organization
"Chemicals, chemicals... I need chemicals!" - George Hayduke
"Wubbalubba dub-dub!" - Rick Sanchez
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
pneumatician
Hazard to Others
***




Posts: 409
Registered: 27-5-2013
Location: Magonia
Member Is Offline

Mood: ■■■■■■■■■■ INRI ■■■■■■■■■■ ** Igne Natura Renovatur Integra **

[*] posted on 7-12-2023 at 14:46


https://www.plasticstoday.com/packaging/the-incredible-edibl...
View user's profile View All Posts By User
EF2000
Hazard to Self
**




Posts: 79
Registered: 10-5-2023
Location: The Steppes, now trapped in the forest zone
Member Is Offline

Mood: wrooom

[*] posted on 18-12-2023 at 11:05


Pardon for resurrecting the thread, but:
Unfortunately, no. Waxworms just make holes in PE film. Paper by Faunhofer Institute says:
Quote:

No biodegradation of polyethylene
The results so far have surprised the project team: caterpillars eat holes in the polyethylene, absorb small amounts of it and at the same time lose a significant amount of body mass. If holes are present, the caterpillars stop taking up further material. The analytical measurement data shows that the caterpillars excrete the polyethylene unchanged.





Wroom wroom
View user's profile View All Posts By User

  Go To Top