"This discovery could be an important tool for helping to get rid of the polyethylene plastic waste accumulated in landfill sites and oceans," said Cambridge University professor Paolo Bombelli, co-author of a study published in the journal Current Biology.
Polyethylene represents 40 percent of Europe’s demand for plastic products, mostly in the form of packaging and shopping bags. Taking many years to biodegrade, polyethylene objects constitute a serious hazard for the environment, especially for sea life, when they are not recycled. In the European Union, 38 percent of plastic is thrown out in landfills.
The promising discovery centers on the wax worm － the name for the caterpillar larva of Galleria mellonella, or greater wax moth. In its pre-caterpillar form, the species is commercially raised as maggots to provide fish bait and aquarium food. The moth is also a scourge of apiculture, laying its eggs in the honeycomb of beehives.