A step-by-step beetle can quickly degrade polystyrene and is expected to solve the plastic waste crisis.

Plastics are an indispensable material in production and life, but their difficult-to-degrade properties also place a huge burden on the environment. At present, the world every second there are 20,000 units of plastic consumption, 13 million tons of plastic flow into the ocean each year, how to reduce and eliminate plastic waste pollution has become a global problem.

Polystyrene (PS) is a colorless and transparent thermoplastic with a glass conversion temperature above 100 degrees C, and is commonly used for cupmaking and lunch boxes. Due to the special molecular structure, ordinary microorganisms are difficult to degrade, polystyrene in plastic waste accounted for a large proportion. However, researchers have recently demonstrated that it can be degraded by a beetle that is more common in South Korea.

A step-by-step beetle can quickly degrade polystyrene and is expected to solve the plastic waste crisis.

A joint team of researchers, hyung Joon Cha, a professor of chemical engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, and Seongwook Woo, a doctoral student, and Intek Song, a professor in the Department of Applied Chemistry at Anton State University, have found for the first time that astep-based beetles native to East Asia can eat polystyrene and reduce their mass and molecular weight after digestion. They also confirmed that the extracted intestinal flora can oxidize and alter the surface properties of polystyrene films.

At the same time, the team isolated and identified the sarre bacteria in the larvae’s intestines. After the researchers fed the larvae with polystyrene for two weeks, the proportion of sarecin in the larvae’s gut flora increased sixfold, accounting for 33 percent of the total intestinal flora. In addition, the study found that the larvae’s gut flora consisted of a very simple group of bacteria (less than six), unlike other gut microfloras found to degrade polystyrene insects.

The study suggests that the particular eating habits of the beetle larvae mean that polystyrene may be degraded by other insects that feed on rotting wood. In addition, the use of the larvae gut flora found in the bacterial strains to develop effective degradation of polystyrene bacteria is also worth looking forward to.

“We found a new type of insect that lives in East Asia, and the gut flora of the larvae biodegrades the plastic,” said Hyung Joon Cha, the paper’s author, according to The Daily Science. He noted that if the bacterial strain of biodegradable plastic was isolated in the study and replicated the simple intestinal flora of the insect, it was possible to degrade polystyrene in a completely biodegradable way, contributing to the solution of plastic contamination.

The study, entitled “Fast and facile bio of polystyrene by the gut stolo flora of Plesiophthalmus davidis larvae”, was published in the online section of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.