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Could Worms Be One Solution to the Plastic Problem?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Scientists discovered polystyrene biodegrades in the guts of mealworms where the plastic is separated from toxic chemicals and excreted
  • Mealworms don't retain the toxins and continue to be viable as livestock feed
  • Bacteria in the mealworm gut do the heavy lifting in biodegrading the plastic; this is yet another demonstration of the importance of the gut microbiome
  • Your gut microbiome influences many systems and health conditions, including intestinal conditions, mood, obesity, Parkinson's and chronic fatigue. Consider using probiotic and prebiotic foods to support the health of your beneficial bacteria

In 2013, the world produced 299 million tons of plastic, of which polystyrene — one brand name is Styrofoam — is one part. A report by the Worldwatch Institute showed that this number increased by 3.9% from the year before. As demonstrated in this short video, polystyrene currently may account for one-third of the contents of landfills; worms may be one answer to the problem.

Expanded polystyrene foam (EPF) was first discovered in 1839, becoming popular during World War II in material used to build military aircraft. Production grew at a phenomenal rate during this time; in 1946 Dow Chemical Company began working to make it more flexible. This resulted in the polystyrene product we now know: It’s moisture resistant and light weight because 98% of it is air.

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