A ‘superworm’ with an urge for food for polystyrene could be the essential to plastic recycling on a mass scale, in accordance to a new research.

The species is capable of munching by means of plastic squander thanks to a bacterial enzyme in their intestine, say Australian researchers.

Dr Chris Rinke, and his crew at the University of Queensland’s Faculty of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, fed superworms distinctive diet plans above a 3-week period, with some supplied polystyrene foam, some bran, and other people put on a fasting diet.

They found that the popular Zophobas morio ‘superworm’ can take in through polystyrene.

“We uncovered the superworms fed a diet regime of just polystyrene not only survived, but even had marginal excess weight gains,” Dr Riske stated. “This suggests the worms can derive strength from the polystyrene, most possible with the enable of their intestine microbes.”

The investigate workforce made use of a system termed metagenomics to come across several encoded enzymes with the means to degrade polystyrene and styrene.

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Dr Riske says the lengthy-term purpose is to engineer enzymes to degrade plastic squander in recycling crops through mechanical shredding, followed by enzymatic biodegradation.

“Superworms are like mini recycling plants, shredding the polystyrene with their mouths and then feeding it to the microorganisms in their gut,” he said.

“The breakdown products from this reaction can then be utilized by other microbes to create superior-value compounds these kinds of as bioplastics.”

The crew hope that the ‘bio-upcycling’ will incentivize plastic waste recycling and lessen landfill.

Analyze co-author Jiarui Sunshine states they goal to develop the gut microbes in the lab and additional examination its means to degrade polystyrene.

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“We can then glimpse into how we can upscale this system to a degree demanded for an total recycling plant,” PhD candidate Ms Solar said.

Dr Rinke mentioned there are several possibilities for the biodegradation of plastic squander.

“Our crew is really energized to press the science to make it happen,” he added.

The results were being released in the journal Microbial Genomics.

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