Skip to main content

Caterpillars could hold the key to managing plastic waste: study (downtoearth,)

Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently found that moth caterpillars can digest a plastic shopping bag. Scientists say this discovery could lead to a biotechnical approach to address environmental pollution caused by plastic.

Federica Bertocchini, a scientist with the Spanish National Research Council and an amateur beekeeper had plucked parasites out of beehives and kept them in a plastic bag. When Bertocchini saw that the plastic bag had holes in it, she approached Paolo Bombelli and Christopher J. Howe from the University of Cambridge.

A report published in Current Biology observes that in an experiment conducted by the group, 100 caterpillars devoured a polythene bag in 40 minutes. The authors say that some enzymes were involved in breaking down polyethylene, which is used widely in plastic bags and packaging and takes hundreds of years to decompose. Whether the enzyme is produced by the worm or by the bacteria in its gut is still unclear. The worm (Galleria Mellonella) is typically bred as fish bait and lives in bee hives.

According to the researchers, these caterpillars break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a way similar to digesting wax. Further research is needed to understand the enzyme as well as the process to break down the molecules in plastic. This can help the scientists formulate a biotechnological process to deal with the world’s plastic waste problem.

However, Howe told the media this will take time and cautioned readers against being careless about how they use and discard plastic bags.

Paolo Bombelli and Dr Federica Bertocchini have patented the discovery.

According to reports, about 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally each year. Only about 10 percent of that is recycled. Of the plastic that is trashed, an estimate of seven million tonnes ends up in the oceans every year. By 2050, plastic is expected to outweigh fishes in the oceans.

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Khar’s experimentation with Himalayan nettle brings recognition (downtoearth)

Nature never fails to surprise us. In many parts of the world, natural resources are the only source of livelihood opportunities available to people. They can be in the form of wild shrubs like Daphne papyracea and Daphne bholua (paper plant) that are used to make paper or Gossypium spp (cotton) that forms the backbone of the textile industry.

Nothing can compete with the dynamism of biological resources. Recently, Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan nettle), a fibre-yielding plant, has become an important livelihood option for people living in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

A Himalayan nettle value chain development initiative implemented by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiati…

The Chipko movement as it stands today

The idea behind the Chipko movement originated in early 1970s from Mandal, a village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Forty-three years later, Down To Earth travelled to Chamoli and Tehri Garhwal and spoke to the participants of this movement about its relevance today