People around the world use more than a trillion plastic bags every year. They’re made of a notoriously resilient kind of plastic called polyethylene that can take decades to break down.
But the humble wax worm may hold the key to biodegrading them.
It was an accidental discovery. Scientist and beekeeper Federica Bertocchini was frustrated to find that her beehives were infested with the caterpillar larvae of Galleria mellonella, commonly known as a wax worm.
Bertocchini, who works at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain, tells NPR that she was cleaning out the hive and put the worm-infested parts in a plastic bag.
But shortly afterward, she noticed that “they were all crawling around my place and the plastic bag was riddled with holes.”