The Discovery

We found out that the caterpillar of the moth Galleria mellonella can degrade Polyethylene within 1 hour from the contact. 

The larva (or caterpillar) of the the larva of the moth Galleria mellonella

The larva (or caterpillar) of the moth Galleria mellonella, also called wax worm

Image credit: Cesar Hernandez/CSIC


After being in contact with the wax worm for less than an hour, the plastic bag is full of holes

Image credit: Cesar Hernandez/CSIC

When a thin film (20­30 µm) of PE is placed in contact with the wax worm the area in touch results modified. The PE film in contact is clearly vanished.

We found that the chemical structure of the plastic is altered, with introduction of oxygen (oxidation). This oxidation is key to this discovery. The main goal is to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for this reaction.

For details about the discovery, go to here

Supplemental Information: here

We went a step further and discovered the key of this key oxidation reaction

Enzymes in the wax worm saliva are responsible of PE oxidation and of breaking down the polymer within hours. They are capable to exert this strong effect in some still unknown fashion.

These enzymes can be applied to plastic in a water solution and at room temperature: in contact with a LDPE bag they cause the formation of degradation products such as ketones, among other compounds. This new discovery opens up highways of potential applications in the field of plastic bioremediation via bio-recycling.


For further details, see Sanluis et al., 2022


For further details, see Serrano et al., 2023


For further details, see Bertocchini et al., 2023


for further details see  Spiěnola-Amilibia et al., 2023 

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