Plastic foam cups made of polystyrene – hi there, plastic debris. What does it mean if researchers find worms that can… eat Styrofoam?

Plastic is everywhere, we all know it: we live in the Plastic Age. Plastic bottles and packaging, plastic garments and bags. Plastic is, sadly, convenient. Plastic is also not bio-degradable – and often toxic.

Read more about the Unwelcome Horrors related to plastics and the season of Trick & Threat.

The solution to saving the oceans (read: our own arses) is a combination of prevention and cleanup. Briefly, prevention includes redesign of plastics in cradle-to-cradle systems, waste reduction and waste management. While everybody can be team prevention, cleanup, on the other hand, is a highly complex issue.

Why? Because plastic waste comes in all forms and sizes: from old bottles to finest fibres and microplastics. You can’t just go to the beach, pick up stuff and, abracadabra, the ocean’s clean. Though that would be cool.

Now, thanks to researchers at the Stanford University, it looks like there’s at least a new option for team cleanup: tiny mealworms seem to be able to digest polystyrene, one of the largest chunks in the plastic waste pile, making it, in fact, bio-degradable. We’ll have to wait and see if it can become a part of a sustainable cleanup strategy.environment-safe-the-oceans

So, is this new hope – or a license to litter (for some at least)?
I hope it’s the former.

What do you think?

P.S. Helpful links: Standford study on worms that digest Styrofoam | Greenpeace & The Trash Vortex: Actionable Steps For Everyone | Lifestyle tips to avoid disposable plastic by LifeInBlush



8 replies on “Environment: Is Plastic Becoming Bio-Degradable?

  1. Sadly I’m not particularly hopeful. How many mealworm are needed to make a dent in our trash? I’m guessing it will be so large that we’re unbalancing ecosystems and we don’t know the impact (clever humans yet again). The whole wanton waste issue is so ingrained in cultural values and consumer society. It is often cheaper to buy new items than to repair perfectly fixable ones. In many other parts of the world, thinking about your ancestors and descendants is an everyday thing that makes you accountable, respecting their future home, conserving resources and so on. And who pays the price? We’ll have the army of mealworms or whatever other temporary solution whilst those who haven’t contributed suffer….. we all pay the price in some shape or form in the end. On that optimistic note!

  2. Oh wow this is definitely a hot topic I could talk for hours about!

    We’ve discovered bacteria, marine microbes and fungi from the amazon that can digest plastic, and while I do see this as a great band-aid solution to help stop the bleeding, I feel the real crux of the issue comes from the fact that plastic is convenient and cheap. And a time-starved population that runs on debt loves convenience and a deal.

    If you put a frog in boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if you put it in cold water and slowly heat it up it will stay in there and die. Humans are the same. Plastic is threatening to alter the open ocean’s natural environment, which will have grave downstream effects, but because it’s not affecting our every day lives the sense of urgency to reverse the damage is not there. What if landfill garbage was on each and everyone of our doorstops? What if we couldn’t walk down the street without wading through mounds of plastic, the stench causing us to hurl our breakfast? How would we adjust to a world where no plastic existed? (The point is we would adjust, we’re just not being forced to)

    At the end of the day most of us in our lifetime will not feel the severe effects of how plastic is changing our environment and that’s part of the problem – we only think to the end of our lives and not what kind of world we’re leaving for future generations. I truly believe that until there’s greater profit in using a plastic alternative big business (and their quest to meet quarterly revenue goals) will simply win out at the end of the day. Those of use who care enough will help to plug the leak with our conversation efforts, but we won’t stop the ship from sinking until the world takes a collective step back and re-evaluates.

    Happy Friday Nath, thanks for asking for my opinion! xo

    1. Sonja, I could make dozens of wise quote banners from just this one comment! “a great band-aid solution” – TRUE. “a time-starved population that runs on debt loves convenience and a deal” – TRUE! “What if we couldn’t walk down the street without wading through mounds of plastic” – YES.

      I sometimes think – simplicistically speaking – that maybe only raising the taxes on everything unsustainable and enforcing cradle-to-cradle systems will reset the way of thinking for the big industry. Right now, it’s the worse, the cheaper. It should be the opposite. Given the growing societal rift between stinkin’ rich and broke, this is the only way.

  3. I have my own reusable coffee mug, and I only have takeaway Asian food anyway )) Or pizza! So I guess it’s just some cardboard?
    Garment fibers, that’s a bugger ((((

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