As pollution, plastic is amazingly persistent. It is meant to last, but ironically, we typically use it for throw-away items. Stick it in a landfill and it stays there without degrading. Dump it in the ocean and it might break down, but all along the way it clogs the digestive tracts at every level of the food chain. By chance, researchers found a bug, a caterpillar, that eats one type of plastic: polyethylene. Microbes can also break it down, but the caterpillars are exceptional because,
“about 100 of them could degrade 92 milligrams of the plastic in around 12 hours” – Nature
Whether it is the caterpillars or their gut biome, an accident in research may have found a way to help clean up the planet.
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