Rapid biodegradation of plastics in tenebrio's gut reveals a new destiny of discarded plastic waste in the environment. Plastics are difficult to degrade naturally in the environment, and polystyrene is among the most difficult ones.
Due to the high molecular weight and high stability of polystyrene, it is widely believed that microbes can not degrade this kind of plastic.Professor Jun Yang Research Group from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Dr. Zhao Jiao from Shenzhen BGI company cooperated to publish two relevant research journals in the environmental field authoritative magazine Environmental Science & Technology, the paper proved that larva of tenebrio (bread worm) can degrade polystyrene which is the kind of the most difficult degradable plastics.
This breakthrough study showed that the larva can survive for more than a month when relies on polystyrene foam as the sole food source, and when they finally developed into imagoes, the biten polystyrene was completely degraded and mineralized as CO2 or transferred to worm body fat. The discovery provides new ideas for scientists to solve the global problem of plastic pollution.
Nevertheless, people are facing the growing problem of white plastic pollution, Professor Yang Jun has called for the public should use less disposable plastic lunch boxes and bags in their daily lives.
Plastic waste which come from petrochemical production is the environmental problem around the world. Most of the plastic products are discarded after the use. So far academia believe that plastic products may not be degraded for ten to hundreds of years in the environment due to their stable physical and chemical structure. And the most effective way is the Styrofoam recycling through polystyrene compactor.