A natural solution to the growing crisis of plastic waste in the environment may be at hand. Researchers have discovered that a tiny caterpillar, commonly known as a waxworm, has a taste for plastic. Researchers from Cambridge University in the UK say that the waxworm devours plastic at "uniquely high speeds". They say that it is possible to utilize this environmentally-friendly solution to global waste on an industrial scale. Millions of waxworms could be bred to spend their days breaking down and consuming plastic bags, bottles, household items and other discarded waste. Around a trillion plastic bags end up in landfills around the world each year. They take centuries to biodegrade.
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Researcher Dr Paolo Bombelli said: "It's extremely, extremely exciting because breaking down plastic has proved so challenging." He said the waxworm can break down a notoriously tough plastic like polyethylene more than 1,400 times faster than other organisms. The waxworm uses enzymes in its saliva to break the plastic's chemical bonds. It might be possible one day to replicate these enzymes and spray them on waste to make it decompose. Another researcher said: "We are planning to implement this finding in a viable way to get rid of plastic waste, working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers, and all the environment from the unavoidable consequences of plastic accumulation."