Plastic-Eating Worms To Clean Up Our Plastic Mess

Oct, 15, 2015

By Fredrica Syren:

Plastic…sigh! What can I say that I have not already preached about so much here on green-mom.com? It’s bad; it’s filledplastic trash main one with hormone disruptive chemicals; it’s not decomposable, so it will stay in a landfill for ever; it pollutes our oceans; it’s in everything. So, yes, it’s a huge problem. A problem that only recently has become an issue we talk about and work on solving.

Something as simple as a tiny bug could be the answer to our plastic problem — at least the Styrofoam kind. Researchers at
Stanford University have found that a common mealworm can live safely on a diet of polystyrene, which is found in Styrofoam products, one huge part of the ever growing plastic garbage situation on our planet. Just like all other kinds of plastic, polystyrene is dangerous to wildlife. Although Styrofoam (just as plastic) is now accepted at recycling centers, it does not recycle very well, and much of it ends up polluting water and nature. It’s estimated that at least 2.5 billion plastic-foam cups are discarded every year in the U.S. alone.

Mealworms not only can eat the Styrofoam, but they also biodegrade it inside their digestive system, so they’re sort of tiny little recyclers☺ Of course there might be concerns for the health of the worms, but so far the study has shown that mealworms consuming a diet of Styrofoam have stayed as healthy as those that ate bran flakes.

Although promising, more research is needed to see how the plastic-eating mealworms do over time and to study how they affect larger animals that eat them. But researchers find this actually could safely work, that it might be the first step in dealing with the global plastic pollution problem we have. Another remaining problem is that these worms can consume only so much plastic. Since 33 million tons of plastic are produced in the U.S. each year and only 10 percent of it actually makes into recycling, 29.7 million tons of plastic remains, and that would require too many worms to make it work.

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Press Kit
Book - Zero Waste for Families
Watch for Free in Oct
Zero Time To Waste Film Poster

Get weekly UPdateS

Let’s stay in touch so we can take this journey together!