So recently a paper came out that showed that mealworms can eat, digest and survive on styrofoam. I wondered if other species could do the same so I tried it out with the much larger and totally different species, superworms. Not only will they eat it but they seem to quite enjoy eating it. It makes for an easy DIY project since you can get the worms cheaply and locally in almost every city since most pet stores will carry them. With a few more worms, you could easily process all the styrofoam you use on a daily basis. check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TS9PWzkUG2s
I'd need an to take an NMR of the stuff to find out. I'll probably do a more in depth look at this in the future. Was just testing out the initial concept. Now need to refine it. Maybe culture the bacteria and use them directly instead of the worms. Lots of ways to explore this further.
I like the one scientist quoted as:
>"Sometimes, science surprises us. This is a shock," said Craig Criddle
Apparently Craig Criddle has never browsed any of the internet about raising mealworms because everyone who does knows these fuckers will eat styrofoam as veraciously as a fat man with popcorn. Almost preferentially so.
Ive been throwing the styrofoam containers my ramen noodles come in to the mealworm farm for going on 9 years now. I even put a whole bunch of styrofoam from a flatpack livingroom furniture set through my farm over a period of a year.
Its has to do with a bacteria they culture in their gut. The bacteria breaks down the plastic bonds and most likely provides carbohydrates and fats as a byproduct.
The researchers did culture their gut fllora and it digested the styrofoam without the worms but much slower. Just like our food sitting in acid degrades slower than if we masticate first.
>these fuckers will eat styrofoam as veraciously as a fat man with popcorn
Yup basically sums up what I saw. I want to get a decent sized tank of them going and see how quickly I can go through a big block of foam. I was really surprised when I first saw them do it though since, why the hell would bugs have something like this hard wired. Have you tried growing anything on the droppings? Or do you just throw it out?
Could build a whole machine/bio reactor around this. Something to break up the bits and then just keep feeding it to a tank of the bacteria. If you break it up enough it should go pretty quick.
The worms are a treat for my chickens. Which after I fed them the flatpack styrofoam led my husband to calling the girls "The Flat Pack Brood"
When I change out the bedding everything from the frass to the bedding goes right into my garden beds.
Most of my organic matter goes to my black soldier fly generator now since its easier to maintain than mealworms. I keep a small bin of mealworms just for some variety for the girls since they go through a picky phase if i just feed them soldier flies all the time.
In theory you probably could. Thats one of the reasons why this research got people so excited. If you could get a reactor like this online and stable it would eliminate a significant portion of landfill waste while providing fertilizer.
Though accomplishing biological reactors on this scale is very problematic. The research that will pay off dividends is identifying which bacteria are responsible for this breakdown, determining what enzymes and processes are used, and manufacturing those enzymes from modified yeast or synthetically.
Its exciting though to see this little worms penchant for munching on plastic getting its deserved attention from science.
Luckily I've spent my fair share of time in micro labs and have wanted to build a bioreactor for a while, just haven't had anything useful to put in it other than things that glow. The way to do it is first isolate the different bacteria from the bugs stomach and get them growing on LB. Then slowly switch them over to styrofoam and then just use that culture for the main reactor.
Wuth Styrofoam is 100% recyclable. why do US landfills contain that much styrofoam?
Where i live its just collected and recycled. Since it only contains 1 type of polymer its easy to melt down and expand into EPS again.
Low value and high transportation costs due to low density.
My city just started accepting expanded polystyrene last year, and polystyrene a couple years before that.
Plus the fact that when you get it, you never get a small amount, it's always a box full. Also no one knows it's recyclable. They were told for so long it wasn't everyone just throws it in the trash.
That's actually pretty cool; knowing the how and why.
Yes, that would be the best course of action for industrial sized waste disposal of this type of trash.
That is what the internet is for though. I can research a subject to death and not find much online, but then a year or two later there's tons of info online. This is just one more thing to add to the pile. Knowing what happens to the Styrofoam and how it is processed is nice.
Very nice. Mine are outside all day in a large 1-acre lot. I do the BSF thing in the warm months and for the cold months I have frozen grasshoppers I've collected to feed them as a motivational treat in the winter. I've been thinking about raising black crickets, but mealworms might be in better reach should this Styrofoam thing pan out nutritionally for the chickens. I don't produce enough waste to make BSF rearing in winter a viable thing. The end result of everything ends up in my garden beds and orchard.
So much this. There isn't a recycling center within 500 miles of where I live. Thus, all my purchases are towards things that are in packaging that I can upcycle, myco-compost, or reuse. I have about 1 bag of trash a month, less if it wasn't for my friends bringing stuff over from time to time.
Styrofoam>mealworms>chickens>bio-methane digestor = food, biomethane, and fertilizer. The biomethane can be used for vehicle fuel, electric, and heat.
How viable is that though. Even the local coal power plant here uses a shit load of natural gas in order to keep things hot enough. I only know that because a farther of a friend was talking about how the gas company only allows x amount to be used unless they call first and no one called one day and customers suddenly had no gas pressure. So, it was a big mess. The coal plant was always buying natural gas for their coal burning to make up for the inefficiency of the coal during peak electric usage hours.
There's a power plant in Florida that uses horse manure for fuel. Personally, I think biomethane is a better use for manure since you get more out of it than you put into it, due to the microbes doing all the major work for you. Another power plant in Florida does that now. The same can be done with a Styrofoam digester plant.
There's a brewery here that washes and reuses the beer bottles and pays a few cents for each one brought back. Actually recycling glass in most cities here is usually not worth it because it's so expensive to transport.
I have to drive 30 minutes to the nearest recycling center. They don't even take glass, much less styrofoam. And they only take 1 and 2 plastics. I hate having to throw all this stuff in the trash, it really pisses me off.
I'm guessing that anon was half joking and that these worms are actually splitting the bonds apart.
The massive ocean garbage pile is a problem because it's all just tiny particles of grinded plastic, which is the worst fucking thing possible.
If these worms are just shitting out micropoly, then we're fucked, but by the fact that they're getting energy from them and people are happily feeding chickens with the things I'd say all is well.
>We could do better, faster, with a grinder
No, no we couldn't grinders don't break the chemical bonds in styrene making available the energy contained within the chemical bonds. The bacteria in the mealworms' gut does just that. Hence the fascination.
Expanded. Solid styrenes as plastics are very durable. They wouldnt be able to chew the solid styrene.
If they're able to isolate the biological pathway that enables the breakdown follows it would be possible to get the enzymes or like to break down styrene and possibly other plastics outside of the bug gut
Actually, you can make pretty nice light concrete with waste styrofoam. At about 400 kg/m^3 density this light concrete is pretty much structural and less prone to cracks that foam-based light concrete.
Same goes to tire rubber recycling, mixing rubber crumbs with concrete in right proportion makes stuff with shit structural but nice noise dampening properties.
>produced more energy than it consumed.