Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Plastic Bags, Researchers Say

Researchers in Europe have found that the larvae of a common insect have an unusual ability to digest plastic, a discovery that could lead to biotechnical advances that help deplete the continual buildup of one of the world’s most stubborn pollutants.

Scientists discovered that the wax worm, a caterpillar used for fishing bait that takes its name from its habit of feeding on beeswax, is able to break down the chemical bonds in polyethylene, a synthetic polymer and widely produced plastic used in packaging, bags and other everyday materials.

Federica Bertocchini, a scientist with the Spanish National Research Council, stumbled upon the insects’ unusual ability several years ago. An amateur beekeeper, Ms. Bertocchini had plucked several worms out of her beehives and was keeping them in a plastic bag.

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Source:  Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times, April 27, 2017

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