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商业 - 科技

塑料污染有望根除,粉虫是关键

ERIN CORBETT 2018年06月03日

粉虫能够消化塑料,将塑料转化为二氧化碳。

塑料污染对地球环境的破坏日益严重,因此积极采取措施解决这个问题已经迫在眉睫。一种较为方便的方法是塑料垃圾回收,但这种方法不够有效。科学家们一直在想方设法解决塑料污染问题,现在他们发现粉虫或许可以发挥作用。

《环境科学与技术》上发表的一项研究称,粉虫能够消化塑料,将塑料转化为二氧化碳,而不是如《经济学人》所报道的那样转化为粪便排出体外。研究发现,粉虫消化道中有一种细菌,可以帮助迅速降解聚合物。其他研究还发现,粉虫还可以消化聚苯乙烯塑料。

当前这项研究显得尤其重要,因为塑料正在给环境及人类健康造成越来越多的负面影响。环境工程师珍娜·詹贝克曾在2015年就这个话题开展了一项研究。她发现,每年约有190亿磅塑料进入海洋,预计到2025年数字会翻倍。塑料会威胁整个生态环境,造成更多动物死亡,而塑料微粒进入食物链,则会给人类带来健康风险。

研究人员将粉虫分成多个小组。几组粉虫以1.8克聚苯乙烯、聚乙烯和两种塑料的混合物为食物。其他几组则以塑料搭配麦麸为食。在为期32天的试验结束时,粉虫的存活率超过90%——麦麸搭配塑料的小组存活率最高。食用聚乙烯的粉虫可将50%的塑料转化为气体;对聚苯乙烯的转化率为45%。

粉虫不仅有助于解决塑料污染危机,也是应对全球粮食危机的一种重要工具。法国农业科学家安东尼·休伯特一直在培育粉虫,制作成“高蛋白”饲料,用于饲养动物和养鱼,最终变成人类餐桌上的美食。休伯特称,粉虫制成的饲料“蛋白质含量非常高”,而且对于动物是健康的。另外,这种饲料对环境也有积极的影响,因为传统动物饲养的二氧化碳排放量,约占全球总排放量的25%。(财富中文网)

译者:刘进龙/汪皓 

As the damaging effects of plastic pollution continue to increase, it’s growing increasingly necessary to take aggressive action against them. Recycling is one of the more conventional approaches to tackling the plastic waste problem, but it may not be effective enough. Scientists looking for ways to fight the pollution problem are now finding that mealworms might be useful in the process.

According to a study in Environmental Science & Technology, mealworms are able to consume plastics and convert them into carbon dioxide, rather than passing the plastics in their feces, as The Economist reports. A bacteria found in the guts of mealworms can help quickly break down polymers, the study found. Other research has found that they are also able to digest a plastic called polystyrene.

The research is especially important now, as plastics have growing, negative impacts on the environment as well as human health. Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer who conducted a 2015 study on the topic found that nearly 19 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, and the number is expected to double by 2025. Plastic poses a threat to entire ecosystems, killing more animals, and puts human health at risk as microplastics make their way into the food chain.

Researchers studying the mealworms divided the insects into different groups. The groups of worms were given 1.8 grams of polystyrene, polyethylene, or both. Others received wheat bran to supplement their plastic diets. By the end of the 32-day experiment, more than 90% of the worms survived—the ones who were given wheat bran with their plastic did the best. Mealworms that were fed polyethylene were able to convert 50% of the plastic into gas; and the ones that consumed the polystyrene were able to convert 45%.

Not only do worms have the potential to be instrumental in the plastic pollution crisis, they have also been seen as a tool in fighting the global food crisis. The French agricultural scientist, Antoine Hubert, has been farming mealworms and turning them into “high-grade protein” to feed the animals and fish that humans will later eat. The mealworm-based animal feed is “super–high protein,” according to Hubert, and healthy for the animals that consume it. It can also have positive effects on the environment, as more conventional animal-feeding, like crops, emit about 25% of total carbon dioxide emissions.

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