Scientists at Stanford University said in 2015 that yellow powder worms could safely degrade polystyrene foam waste. Now, the researchers have also found that toxic substances in the foam do not accumulate in yellow powderworms… This makes it safe to eat.
In the initial study, the researchers found that not only did yellow powderworms easily break down polystyrene foams, but about half of the plastics were converted into biodegradable feces and the other half into carbon dioxide. These faeces can be used as fertilizer for crops.
However, a highly toxic flame retardant called HBCD is often added to polystyrene foam. Scientists worry that the additive may accumulate in yellow powderworms. If yellow powderworms are used as food for animals such as reptile pets, farmed fish or chickens, hbone cyclocycloocycline can be transferred to them.
With this in mind, a team at Stanford University recently fed a group of yellow powderworms to a group of polystyrene foamtreattreats treated with hb1trils, while keeping the control group on a regular diet. It was found that the first group excreted 90 per cent of the hexabromobicyclocyclax in24 hours and all of them within 48 hours.
Yellow powderworms that ate hbone cyclocyclate were themselves as healthy as the control group. In addition, the shrimp, which feed on these first yellow powderworms, also performed as well as the normal diet group.
However, since feces do contain toxic chemicals, they cannot be used as fertilizer or disposed of at will. In addition, other harmful additives may not be easily excreted by yellow powderworms. Therefore, scientists stress that priority is still needed to develop biodegradable or easier-to-recycle polystyrene foam alternatives.
The paper on the study, led by Anja Brandon Malawi and Wu Weimin, was published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.