Super Worms: Nature’s Plastic Crusaders and Polystyrene Allies for a Greener Future

worms for recycling

Super worms” polystyrene lovers, possible key to plastic recycling

The larvae of Zophobas morio beetles are able to feed on plastic, and they could help solve the waste disposal problem.

Packaging material, disposable cutlery, CD cases: polystyrene is one of the most common forms of plastic, but recycling it is not easy and the vast majority end up in landfills or the oceans, threatening marine life. Scientists have discovered that super worms, guzzling the substance, could be of great help.

It’s thanks to their gut enzymes that the ‘super worms’ – actually larvae of the beetle Zophobas morio – may hold the key to higher polystyrene recycling rates, according to researchers from the University of Queensland ( Australia).

Chris Rinke, who led a study published in the journal Microbial Genomics, explains that previous research has shown that tiny wax and mealworms (which are also beetle larvae) have good history of plastic consumption. So they hypothesized that the much larger super worms could eat even more.

Super worms grow to the size of five centimeters and are bred as a food source for reptiles and birds, or even for humans in countries like Thailand and Mexico.

Rinke and his team subjected the superworms to different types of diets for three weeks. Some received polystyrene, others sound, still others nothing.

Future plastic recycling plants

They confirmed that super worms could survive on a polystyrene diet alone, and even gain some weight – compared to a starvation control group – suggesting that worms may gain energy by eating polystyrene.

Although the polystyrene-reared superworms completed their life cycle, becoming nymphs and then fully grown adult beetles, testing revealed a loss of microbial diversity in their guts and potential pathogens. These results suggest that although insects can survive on polystyrene, it is not a nutritious diet and it impacts their health.

Challenge: Reduce our plastic consumption, for the planet… and for our health

Next step, the team used a technique called metagenomics to analyze the microbial community of the worms’ gut, and find which gene-encoded enzymes were involved in plastic degradation.

One possibility would be to provide superworms with food waste or agricultural bioproducts to consume with polystyrene. This could be a way to improve worm health and deal with the large amount of food waste in Western countries.

But if it is possible to raise more worms for this purpose, the scientist envisages another way: to create recycling factories which would mimic what the larvae do, that is to say first shred the plastic and then dispose of it. Ultimately, we want to remove superworms from the equation, explained the researcher, who now plans more research aimed at finding the most effective enzymes – and then further improving them through enzyme engineering.

How much does it cost to rent a dumpster in Mashpee, MA

Before this new technology is fully implemented, residents and businesses in Massachussets still need to rent a dumpster when they have too much junk to discard, be it plastic or not. But how much does it cost exactly?

The cost of renting a dumpster in Mashpee can vary depending on several factors. Factors such as the size of the dumpster, the duration of the rental, and the type of waste being disposed of can all influence the overall cost.

For smaller dumpsters, typically around 10 cubic yards, the cost might range from $250 to $400 for a week-long rental. These are ideal for smaller clean-up projects or home renovations. Larger dumpsters, like 20 or 30 cubic yard options, suited for larger construction projects or significant clean-outs, could cost anywhere from $400 to $800 or more for a week’s rental.

Additional charges might come into play if you exceed the specified weight limit for the dumpster, so it’s important to choose a size that matches your needs. Furthermore, some companies might charge extra for specific types of waste, such as hazardous materials or electronics, due to the special handling and disposal requirements.

As prices can fluctuate between different dumpster rental companies in Mashpee, MA, it’s wise to obtain quotes from multiple providers (like this website) and consider any additional fees, such as delivery and pickup charges, before making a decision. Remember that these prices are estimates and can change based on market conditions and local regulations.