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[phys.org] "Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution"

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Source 
Scientists have found that a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene: one of the toughest and most used plastics, frequently found clogging up landfill sites in the form of plastic shopping bags...Around a hundred wax worms were exposed to a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. Holes started to appear after just 40 minutes, and after 12 hours there was a reduction in plastic mass of 92mg from the bag

Source

So this is huge, I think. Especially the main point of it being able to break down that much that quickly, it could really have major ramifications globally...
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post #2 of 13

...what do they turn it into?

 

E: Oh, ethylene glycol.

   
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post #3 of 13
Imagine the butterfly moth (in this case) infestation we'd have. Those caterpillars will eventually turn to butterflies moths. Then we'd have a bunch of mutated, plastic pollen craving butterflies moths.

We'd need to have it in a dome somewhere. Are gases released from them eating this? Are the excrements going into the soil toxic?

edit : replaced butterflies with moth.
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post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duality92 View Post

Imagine the butterfly infestation we'd have. Those caterpillars will eventually turn to butterflies. Then we'd have a bunch of mutated, plastic pollen butterflies.

We'd need to have it in a dome somewhere. Are gases released from them eating this? Are the excrements going into the soil toxic?

I doubt they'd turn into mutated/plastic pollen butterflies. The article says they break the plastic down into ethylene glycol, which I don't think is necessarily a good thing. At the same time, if you are able to contain them in a dome or some sort of filtration system that is able to further break down the ethylene glycol, then even better.

I think it's certainly a good thing for us to be careful with, but given our massive problems when it comes to plastics and landfill usage, I think this is a great step in the right direction.

::edit::

i'm not chemist or any type of scientist for that matter, so my knowledge consists of what I can find on the Internet. that being said as my disclaimer, it seems that if we can protect crops/plants/water from the compound, it breaks down quite quickly and isn't actually that bad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylene_glycol#In_the_environment
Edited by b3machi7ke - 4/26/17 at 12:21pm
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post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by b3machi7ke View Post

I doubt they'd turn into mutated/plastic pollen butterflies. The article says they break the plastic down into ethylene glycol, which I don't think is necessarily a good thing. At the same time, if you are able to contain them in a dome or some sort of filtration system that is able to further break down the ethylene glycol, then even better.

I think it's certainly a good thing for us to be careful with, but given our massive problems when it comes to plastics and landfill usage, I think this is a great step in the right direction.

I agree, we're currently producing ethylene glycol for coolants and such, it could help reduce the quantities we're already producing if they can refine the process and the ethylene glycol output.
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post #6 of 13
So what you're telling me is that tons of places banned plastic bags for nothing to encourage reusable bags (which take ~100 uses to break even in terms of environmental impact but which tend to break down earlier than that) did so for nothing?
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post #7 of 13
A little late. Lab cut open a green crab from ME the other day and it's stomach had a fair amount of micro plastics in it. Trying to implement something like this on a larger scale will take years maybe even decades by then it will most definitely be too late.
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post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xlink View Post

So what you're telling me is that tons of places banned plastic bags for nothing to encourage reusable bags (which take ~100 uses to break even in terms of environmental impact but which tend to break down earlier than that) did so for nothing?

{sarcasm tags not detected}

No, I don't think reusable bags are a waste at all, nor do I think they did it for nothing. Plastic bags are but one area of many that use plastics, so any amount that we do reduce our plastic consumption is a good thing. Just because we are using more reusable bags doesn't mean there aren't other areas where people are still using an abundance of plastic that this research could help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxrun View Post

A little late. Lab cut open a green crab from ME the other day and it's stomach had a fair amount of micro plastics in it. Trying to implement something like this on a larger scale will take years maybe even decades by then it will most definitely be too late.

Maybe, maybe not. The only way to know if it will help, or will be in time, is to continue to push forward with research, development, and implementation while implementing other measures (like reusable bags among other things) to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is produced. I don't think it will take decades, and I certainly don't think it will be too late, but only time will tell.
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post #9 of 13
They don't want to breed these worms for them to eat all that plastic, they want to know the exact enzyme responsible and make it in labs.
post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Imouto View Post

They don't want to breed these worms for them to eat all that plastic, they want to know the exact enzyme responsible and make it in labs.

Make that time line even longer then. The amount of plastic in the ocean is staggering and it has worked it's way up the food chain. The chemicals from plastic typically permeates throughout the body of an organism, which in turn we eat. Couple this with over population, radiation from Fukushima, climate change, oil spills, methane from thawing permafrost, etc. and you have the largest threat to humanity.

Not trying to sound doom and gloom, but Ive been doing this since undergrad and now in grad school. Read some of the recent literature and you'll see that change has to happen yesterday.
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i7 5820K @ 4.5 AsRock X99 Extreme4 GTX 1080Ti GTX 1080Ti 
RAMHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 DRAM 3000MHz Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD 
CoolingOSMonitorMonitor
Corsair H110 Windows 10 Pro OLED55C6P Dell S2417DG 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K65 Corsair HX1200i  Corsair 780T Logitech G502 Proteus  
Mouse PadAudioAudio
OCZ HW-K550  Sennheiser PC 373D 
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Reply
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Overclock.net › Forums › Industry News › Technology and Science News › [phys.org] "Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution"