Mealworms are not only able to eat various forms of plastic, as previous research has shown, they can consume potentially toxic plastic additives in Styrofoam with no ill effects, a new study shows. The worms can then be used as a safe, protein-rich feed supplement.
Tiny mealworms may hold part of the solution to our giant plastics problem. Not only are they able to consume various forms of plastic, as previous Stanford research has shown, they can eat Styrofoam containing a common toxic chemical additive and still be safely used as protein-rich feedstock for other animals, according to a new Stanford study published in Environmental Science & Technology.
The study is the first to look at where chemicals in plastic end up after being broken down in a natural system – a yellow mealworm’s gut, in this case. It serves as a proof of concept for deriving value from plastic waste.
“This is definitely not what we expected to see,” said study lead author Anja Malawi Brandon, a PhD candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. “It’s amazing that mealworms can eat a chemical additive without it building up in their body over time.”
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