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Biodegradation of Different Types of Plastics by Tenebrio molitor Insect

Looking for new, sustainable ways to utilize plastics is still a very pertinent topic considering the amount of plastics produced in the world. One of the newest and intriguing possibility is the use of insects in biodegradation of plastics, which can be named entomoremediation. The aim of this work was to demonstrate the ability of the insect Tenebrio molitor to biodegrade different, real plastic waste. The types of plastic waste used were: remains of thermal building insulation polystyrene foam (PS), two types of polyurethane (kitchen sponge as PU1 and commercial thermal insulation foam as PU2), and polyethylene foam (PE), which has been used as packaging material. After 58 days, the efficiency of mass reduction for all of the investigated plastics was 46.5%, 41.0%, 53.2%, and 69.7% for PS, PU1, PU2, and PE, respectively (with a dose of 0.0052 g of each plastic per 1 mealworm larvae). Both larvae and imago were active plastic eaters. However, in order to shorten the duration of the experiment and increase the specific consumption rate, the two forms of the insect should not be combined together in one container.

Publication date: 13/10/2021

Author: Piotr Bulak

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym13203508

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.