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Current Affairs

Plastic eating caterpillar

Date: 07 March 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


A small waxworm could be useful in our fight against plastic waste, one of the main environmental problems of the modern era.



Humans are addicted to plastic, a material that we can find almost everywhere but that is also very hard to get rid of. About eight million tons of it ends up in the oceans every year.



  • Researchers from the UK and Spain discovered that a species of caterpillar was capable of tearing apart polyethylene, one of the most common types of plastic. The waxworm could digest it and then produce ethylene glycol as a by-product.

  • Other organisms could also do this but not as fast, which made this inconspicuous creature particularly interesting.

  • The discovery opened the door to a new way of dealing with plastic pollution, but more research was needed to understand the internal mechanism of the caterpillar.

  • Another group of researchers isolated the bacteria in the stomach of the waxworm and fed them just with plastic for a full year. This helped the researchers to identify the microorganisms that are involved in the process of breaking down the plastic, which could lead to creating a technology to eliminate plastic permanently.

  • The caterpillars represent an important breakthrough and help deal with plastics, especially those that are hard to recycle.