毛毛蟲能吃塑膠袋 或成解決塑膠污染關鍵


ANN@The China Post

塑膠通常很難分解,塑膠垃圾聚積已成為日益嚴峻的污染難題。不過,一項最新研究發現,一種毛蟲可以吃掉塑膠袋,這為治理塑膠污染提供了方向。科學家們表示,蠟螟能生物降解最難分解和最常使用的塑膠:聚乙烯,他們正在加緊研究蠟螟自然降解塑膠背後的化學原理,從而解決塑膠污染問題。

A caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say. 科學家們稱,一種吃塑膠袋的毛蟲或可成為解決塑膠污染的關鍵。

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic. 劍橋大學的研究人員發現,這種飛蛾幼蟲不僅吃蜂巢中的蜂蠟,還能降解塑膠。

Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax. 實驗表明,這種毛蟲可以分解塑膠的化學鍵,與其消化蜂蠟的方式類似。

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world. 每年,全球約生產8000萬噸塑膠聚乙烯。

The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. 塑膠聚乙烯可用作購物袋、食品以及其他物品的包裝,但這種塑膠需要數百年才能被徹底降解。

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour. 然而,蠟螟一個小時內就可在塑膠袋上弄出一個洞。 Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study. 劍橋大學生物化學家保羅•邦貝利博士是參與該研究的研究員之一。

“The caterpillar will be the starting point,” he told BBC News. 他告訴BBC:“蠟螟將成為一個突破口。”

“We need to understand the details under which this process operates. “我們需要瞭解這一過程背後的運作細節。”

“We hope to provide the technical solution for minimising the problem of plastic waste.” “我們希望為最大限度減少塑膠污染提供技術解決方案。”

Dr Bombelli and colleague Federica Bertocchini of the Spanish National Research Council have patented the discovery. 邦貝利和他的同事——西班牙國家研究委員會的費德里卡•貝爾托基尼已經給這項發現申請了專利。

They want to speed up the process of discovering the chemical secrets behind the natural degradation of plastic. 他們希望加緊找出蠟螟自然降解塑膠背後的化學原理。

They think microbes in the caterpillar – as well as the insect itself – might play a role in breaking down plastic. 他們認為,蠟螟自身及其體內的微生物可能在分解塑膠方面發揮了作用。

If the chemical process can be identified, it could lead to a solution to managing plastic waste in the environment. 如果能夠確認這個化學過程,就可能會找到解決塑膠垃圾污染的辦法。

“We are planning to implement this finding into a viable way to get rid of plastic waste, working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers, and all the environment from the unavoidable consequences of plastic accumulation,” said Dr Bertocchini. 貝爾托基尼說:“我們正計畫將這個發現轉化為消除塑膠污染的可行辦法,努力尋找方案,拯救海洋、河流以及整個環境,使它們免於承受塑膠聚積產生的無法避免的影響。”

“However, we should not feel justified to dump polyethylene deliberately in our environment just because we now know how to bio-degrade it.” “但是,我們不應該因為知道如何生物降解聚乙烯,就認為故意向自然中丟棄聚乙烯是正當的。”

The research is published in the journal, Current Biology. 這項研究發表在《當代生物學》雜誌上。