a yellow humble worm
BBC NEWS,  News,  Plastic pollution

Scientists discovered ‘Humble’ worm saliva can break down tough plastic

Spanish researchers say they’ve discovered chemicals in the wax worm’s drool that break down polyethylene, a tough and durable material.

The researchers say that one hour’s exposure to the saliva degrades the plastic as much as years of weathering.

They hope the breakthrough will lead to new natural approaches to deal with plastic pollution.

They’ve discovered two enzymes in the liquid that can degrade polyethylene at room temperatures and believe it’s the first time that such an effective agent has been found in nature.  

These creatures are a well known pest that attacks and destroys honeybee hives. They are also popular with anglers as a bait and as a food source for reptiles. 

The scientists believe that what they’ve discovered so far provides a promising alternative approach to biological degradation and could lead to new solutions.

“We imagine you could apply this new understanding to large plastic waste management facilities,” said Dr Federica Bertocchini, a co-author on the paper also from the Spanish National Research Council.