06.27.2018

A New Weapon In The War On Plastic

How a chance discovery led Italian researcher Federica Bertocchini to discover the plastic-eating worm

  • A New Weapon In The War On Plastic
  • A New Weapon In The War On Plastic

We definitely have a problem with plastic. Over the last 50 years, the production and the consumption of the most common manmade material have been rising constantly. 
 
In this context, the recent discovery of a plastic-eating warm by Italian researcher Federica Bertocchiniappears absolutely relevant and it might even provide us with a new weapon in the war against a problem that was caused by our own ineptitude and shortsightedness.
 
Previously a Research Career Development Fellow at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (IBBTEC) in Santander, Spain, Federicagraduated in Biological Science at the University of Pisa and later earned a PhD from the DIBIT research at Milan’s Istituto San Raffaele. Working in London and New York City, she focused her studies on the development of the vertebrate embryo, but it was actually a chance discovery that led her to start a project on plastic bio-degradation.
 
As it happens, Federica is also an amateur beekeeper, and while removing a wax warm infestation in one of her hives one day she put them in a plastic bag, only to later discover that they had eaten their wayout leaving holes all over the bag! 
 
The research that followed, and which was also supported by scientists at Cambridge University, revealed that the wax worm, the larva of a Lepidoptera living in the honeycomb of beehives, does actually eat plastic: according to lab tests, 100 worms can eat 92 milligrams of polyethylene in 12 hours, apparently by using the same enzymes they use for eating beeswax. 
 
Yet, in order to ascertain that polyethylene bio-degradation by wax warm is a viable option that might contribute to solving the plastic problem, more research needs to be done, and Federica is certainly up to it. 
 

Author : The Slowear Journal

related articles | Arts & Culture |