Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have created an artificial “worm gut” that can break down plastics, providing hope for a solution to the world's plastic pollution issue that is inspired by nature.
Researchers from the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE) and NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) have revealed a novel way to speed up the biodegradation of plastic by feeding worms plastics and developing microbes found in their intestines.
The larvae of the darkling beetle, Zophobas atratus worms, are often offered as pet food and are known as “superworms” due to their high nutritional content. Previous studies have demonstrated that worms can thrive on a diet of plastic because the bacteria in their guts can break down common plastic varieties. Unfortunately, the sluggish pace of feeding and worm upkeep has made their application in plastics production impracticable.
By isolating the worm’s gut bacteria and employing them to do the task without the requirement for large-scale worm rearing, NTU scientists have now shown how to overcome these difficulties.