The Plastic-Eating Caterpillar: A New Clue in the Quest for Biodegradable Plastic?


A novel possibility for cleaning up the earth’s rising tide of plastic waste was reported this week in the form of a newly discovered, plastic-eating caterpillar.


The Problem with Plastics


Ubiquitous, essential to modern life, produced in exponentially increasing quantities, and persisting forever: plastics are taking an increasing toll on the planet. We produce around 300 million tons of the synthetic polymer every year, the majority of which ends up clogging landfills and polluting the environment. Millions of tons of plastic makes its way into the ocean annually, with catastrophic consequences. The problem: plastic does not degrade, it just accumulates.


An Insect-based Solution?


Now, researchers in Spain have discovered that a caterpillar known as the wax worm can digest polyethylene. Led by Dr. Federica Bertocchini, of the Spanish National Research Council, the scientists found that this caterpillar can eat its way through plastic bags quite effectively.


Small and plump-bodied, the cream-colored wax worm is the larval (caterpillar) stage of the common wax moth (Galleria mellonella), also known as the honeycomb moth. This tiny moth is a big problem for beekeepers because it lays its eggs inside beehives. After hatching, the larvae – wax worms – feed voraciously on honeycomb.


Discovery of the plastic-eating prowess of the wax worms began with a small piece of serendipity connected to Bertocchini’s hobby: bee keeping. After noticing a moth infestation in her beehive, she collected the larvae responsible and held them in a plastic bag overnight, only to find that they chewed holes through the bag to escape. Amazed and intrigued, Bertocchini and colleagues decided to investigate further.


Polyethylene Polymers


Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, the most common form of plastic.


Polyethylene is:


  • Comprised of long chains or polymers of carbon atoms.
  • Extremely persistent in the environment.
  • Almost totally resistant to breakdown by normal composting microorganisms.

Beeswax is likewise a long polymer involving single carbon-to-carbon bonds, in some ways like a natural plastic, according to Bertocchini, with some structural similarity to polyethylene. This raised a question: might worms that chow down on beeswax for a living also possess a previously-unimagined ability to break down plastic?


Uncertain at first whether the holes she found were just mechanical chewing or evidence of real digestion, Bertocchini turned to lab studies to see what the caterpillars could do when presented with a pile of plastic. The results demonstrated actual digestion, confirmed by the detection of a breakdown product, ethylene glycol, inside the feasting caterpillars.


It is uncertain whether the caterpillars themselves possess the enzymes to break down the polyethylene bonds, or whether they have cultivated a microbiome of gut bacteria able to do the job for them, but either way, the discovery is momentous.


Practical Implications


In the lab study, it took 100 worms twelve hours to eat only 92 milligrams of plastics, a relatively tiny amount on a global scale. However, given that virtually no biological breakdown mechanism was previously known, even slow munching by some worms is an event causing much excitement.


Researchers are excited about the larger implications. Follow-up studies will examine the molecular basis of the polyethylene-digesting ability of wax worms and their gut bacteria. This work holds intriguing possibility for opening a door to better bio-disposal of plastics in the future.



Thousands Raised for Teen in Jail for Missing School

A 17-year-old girl was sent to jail for 24 hours for missing school too many time. Diane Tran, an honor student in Texas, was arrested and jailed because she couldn’t pay the $100 fine imposed on her.

According to the state law in Texas, a student is allowed to miss school less than ten times over six months. It is still unclear how many times Diane missed school, but it was enough for her to be arrested and jailed

Reasons of truancy

The 17-year-old girl is not like any other teenage girl. She doesn’t come from any fancy family. Due to this reasons, she is the one that supports her family. Her brothers, sisters, and mother depend on her for support.

She, therefore, has to work two jobs to support her family. This little girl works both fulltime and part-time jobs as well as trying to keep up with school. She works full time at a dry cleaner company and part-time for wedding planning agencies.

Due to all these burdens, it was hard for her to balance school and work. She was said to have spent long nights doing her homework after leaving work. On the weekends she was still busy with her part-time jobs. This was the main reason why sometimes it was hard for her to attend school as required. The amazing thing about Diane is that even with all the absenteeism she still got more A’s than B’s.

However, according to the law, this is not an excuse. The law of truancy has led to many students dropping out of school. The students who get caught under this law are usually the poor kids supporting their families. When they are charged and fined, they spend time in jails and drop out of school after that.

People support Diane

After the story of Diane had gone all over the states, well-wishers came to her aid. A fundraising campaign was formed to raise money to support her. The online campaign at from the Louisiana Children’s Education Alliance is said to have raised over $40000 from different states and different countries to support her. Other people also rallied to raise funds to support her reaching almost $100000.
The funds raised were intended to help her so that she can concentrate in school. The money would support her and her family so she wouldn’t have to work two jobs to support them. Because she is a bright student, it would be sad to see her drop out of school just for lack of funds. This is why many people came out to help her. She refused to take the money saying there are more students out there struggling more than her.

Truancy in Texas.
Texas is the state best known for charging students for truancy. Even though there isn’t an exact number of the students who have been jailed for this law, the number is high. This law doesn’t take into account what caused students to be absent.

Most of the truancy cases aren’t caused by the students themselves. It is not that students don’t want to come to school, but it is due to some circumstances.

  • Financial reasons are the major causes of truancy
  • Instabilities at home.
  • Health reasons may also lead to truancy

The state should take all this into consideration.


Houston Lawyer Shopping Center Shooting

In the early morning hours of Monday, September 26, Eduardo Andrade, 42, was driving down Law Street in Houston, Texas. Suddenly, bullets began ripping through his windshield.


The mass shooting survivor explains the situation, “As I was driving by Law Street I suddenly heard a big explosion,” Andrade said. “I covered myself, accelerated and tried to get out of there. I did not know if someone was following me or trying to shoot me.”


At 6:30 in the morning Nathan Desai showed up to a crowded Houston Plaza and began shooting with what was described as a Tommy Gunn. He also brandished a pistol and brought plenty of ammunition with them.


The Houston lawyer was also wearing a military uniform with Nazi symbols on it. The men sprayed bullets in every direction, injuring nine before being killed by police on the scene.


According to authorities, Nathan Desai purchased both of his guns legally. He was carrying a .45 semi-automatic handgun and a .45 semi-automatic Thompson carbine and authorities say that he had more than 2600 rounds of ammunition on him and in his vehicle. A knife was also recovered from the alleged shooter.


Houston Police Department Captain Dwayne Ready held a press conference Monday afternoon where he stated that the alleged shooter had an apartment full of military uniforms. Some of the military paraphernalia recovered at the apartment dated as far back as the Civil War.


After Desai was shot by police, the scene could be processed. Police claim to have found 75 shell casings from bullets fired on the scene. The shell casings came from both the alleged shooter’s guns as well as the police firing back at him.


The alleged shooter ran his own law practice in Houston, McDaniel & DeSai LLP. His father claims that he was upset that the law firm had to shut down due to a lack of clients. His depression concerned his father, who was trying to call him all day Monday. He never got a hold of the son.


His father also confirms to reporters that his son had multiple firearms and a license to carry. The father also told reporters that the alleged shooter drove a black Porsche and that same black Porsche could be seen at the scene of the crime being processed by police.


The license plate on the black Porsche also matches the registration for the vehicle of Desai. This all but confirms the identity of the alleged shooter despite the fact that law enforcement is unwilling to officially confirm his identity.


Six of the shooter’s nine victims were taken to local area hospitals. One of the victims remains in critical condition while three have been released. Everyone shot during the incident is expected to survive. Authorities say that some people were shot while sitting in their cars and others were hit with debris and shattered glass from the bullets.


Desai’s LinkedIn page lists his undergraduate college as the University of Tulsa. He got his law degree in Houston at the University of Houston with an undergraduate degree in psychology.


Houston authorities are stating that there is no link to terrorism in this incident. They believe it is an isolated incident perpetrated by someone with mental health issues. Though, the exact motivation for the attack is still unknown.


Witness in Stanford Sexual Assault Case Breaks Silence

In the infamous Stanford rape case involving Brock Turner and his anonymous victim it only seems as if there is a villain and a victim. Enough light has not been shed on the two heroes that were able to put a stop to the sexual assault as it was occurring. The names of these hero’s are Carl Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, Swedish Ph.D students that also attended Stanford. In a letter written by the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, she is so thankful for the heroes that came to her rescue when she was unconscious and unable to defend herself from such a inhumane act of sexual assault. She has yet to meet these heroes and will likely keep it that way unless she comes out publicly as the victim of this heinous crime.

The way the story was described by the witnesses is as following.Carl Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson were both on a bike ride riding past a fraternity house. As they were approaching the dumpsters behind the fraternity house where the sexual assault occurred they noticed something strange.

“We saw that she was not moving, while he was moving a lot,” Arndt spoke in his native language of Swedish.“So we stopped and thought, ‘This is very strange.’”

Jonnson was the first to approach the convict asking “what are you doing?”. It was then that Turner hopped up, startled, after finishing his “aggressive thrusting” of his hips into the victim. As convicted felon Brock Turner made a run for it he was tackled by both students and called the police. Both Arndt and Jonsson both testified in court to put this rapist behind bars and was helpful every step of the way.

These are two young men that should be getting the attention of the media as a whole and not the criminal Brock Turner. There needs to be a spotlight on people who stand up for women when these women couldn’t even stand up. There needs to be honor and respect for someone that takes action against injustice instead of supporting it or covering it up. The judge who ruled on this case is taking some heavy heat from citizens due to such a soft and lenient judgement against Brock Turner. It doesn’t matter if he could have played in the olympics or if what he did could possibly ruin his life or if his parents are wealthy. He should have to pay the price and luckily these two brave students were able to bring justice to a very ugly situation.

The judge who persecuted Brock Turner now has a petition against him requesting that the judge be removed from office. There were over one million signatures in a petition to have “the honorable” Judge Aaron Persky be removed from his position. This petition was created because many people believe that the Stanford student was let off entirely too easily by the Judge having to only serve 3-months in jail with good behavior. This sentence could have been almost as long as a decade had he paid the full price for “20 minutes of action” as the perpetrators father so honorably stated in a letter to the judge.