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‘Superworms’ Can Digest Styrofoam, Australian Scientists Find

Larvae of the darkling beetle can survive on a diet of plastic, pointing to new methods of processing the planet’s tide of garbage. 

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University of Queensland

Scientists in Australia have discovered that superworms can live and even grow on a diet of only polystyrene, also known colloquially as Styrofoam. Superworm is a common name for the larval stages of the darkling beetle (Zophobas morio). The researchers described their finding as a “first step” in discovering natural enzymes that could be used to recycle this type of plastic. 

“We envision that polystyrene waste will be collected, mechanically shredded, and then degraded in bioreactors with an enzyme cocktail,” said Chris Rinke, a scientist at the University of Queensland and an author of a paper published on Thursday in the journal Microbial Genomics