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Plastic-eating caterpillar could munch waste, scientists say
World | science | 17:22, 25 April 2017 | 2930

AKIPRESS.COM - A caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic.

Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax.

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world.

The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.

Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study.

"The caterpillar will be the starting point," he told BBC News.

"We need to understand the details under which this process operates.

"We hope to provide the technical solution for minimising the problem of plastic waste."

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