Dear World, Say Hello To Your New Savior: Plastic-Eating Caterpillars

Joe Welkie
Plastic-Eating Caterpillars
(Photo: Plastic-Eating Caterpillars)

So many of us are worrying about the end of the world. The constant threat of nuclear attack, global warming, super volcanoes, it could all end for us at any moment. But scientists are looking to hone the power of one of Earth’s smallest might-be saviors: plastic-eating caterpillars.

That’s right, our saving grace could come in the form of a tiny, little bug that you might otherwise step on if it were in your house. Federica Bertocchini, a biologist at Cantabria University, took notice of caterpillars chewing through plastic bags in order to escape captivity and had a bright idea. Maybe these little bugs could help our plastic waste problem.

Dr. Bertocchini set up an experiment to see just how effective these little critters could be and what she found was quite surprising. Each caterpillar in the test ate an average of 2.2 holes in the plastic bag. The holes measured roughly three millimeters across, and it took the larvae about an hour to complete the holes. She concluded that if 100 caterpillars went to town on a plastic bag, it would take about a month for them to consume the entire bag.

That may not sound like an immediate solution to our plastic waste problem, but it’s a start.