Worm food

There’s been rising interest over the past year in entomophagy, which is defined as the consumption of insects as food. In 2013, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization promoted insects as “healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and even fish.” Last August in Montreal, an international conference on entomophagy praised the sustainability of bug eating – the fact that growing insects as food requires little land, water and energy, and results in relatively low emissions. One of the most popular edible insects is the waxworm. There are now recipes for waxworm cookies, tacos and stir fry – to name a few. But waxworms, scientists from Stanford University and Beihang University, Beijing, have learned, could also be used to deal with plastic waste that can’t be recycled. Waxworms are capable of chewing and eating plastic films. A study that appeared in November in the journal Environmental Science & Technology reports that two bacterial strains found in the guts of waxworms were efficient at degrading polyethylene. “The isolation and characterization of more polyethylene-degrading microorganisms from this source and a better understanding of the enzymatic system involved in polyethylene degradation could be helpful in the development of remediation approaches for plastic wastes, which could eliminate plastic pollution concerns,” the researchers report.

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