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[翻译]SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - Plastic Eating Worms May Cut Pollution

更新时间:2017/5/8 9:37:51 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

Researchers may have found an unusual way to reduce plastic pollution, one bite at a time.

研究人员可能发现了一种不同寻常的减少塑料污染的方式,那就是一口一口把它吃掉。

It turns out that the common wax worm can eat plastic. Also known as the Galleria mellonella, these worms may help reduce the waste caused by plastic bags.

事实证明,这种常见的蜡虫可以吃掉塑料。这种蜡虫也被称之为大蜡螟,它可能有助于减少塑料袋造成的废弃物。

Each year, one trillion plastic bags are used around the world. They are made from polyethylene -- one of the strongest kinds of plastic.

世界各地每年使用了1万亿个塑料袋。它们是由聚乙烯制成的,这是最坚固的塑料之一。

The wax worm is the larvae, or young form, of an insect called the greater wax moth. These kinds of worms are also called caterpillars.

这种蜡虫是大蜡蛾的幼虫,它也被称之为毛毛虫。

Federica Bertocchini is with the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain. She says researchers found that the larvae of the Galleria mellonella are able to biodegrade the plastic bags. To “biodegrade” means to break down by natural processes or bacteria.

费代丽卡·伯特科希尼(Federica Bertocchini)就职于西班牙坎塔布里亚生物医学和生物技术研究所。她说,研究人员发现这种大蜡螟的幼虫可以生物降解塑料袋。生物降解是指通过自然过程或细菌来分解。

Accidental discovery

意外发现

They discovered this by accident, Bertocchini explains.

伯特科希尼解释说,他们意外发现了这一结果。

She says the plastic bags holding the wax worms “became riddled with holes.” In other words, the bags had holes all over them when the worms were inside.

她说,装着蜡虫的塑料袋变得到处都是小洞。换句话说,当蜡虫在塑料袋里的时候,塑料袋到处都是洞。

Bertocchini, a beekeeper, says she made the chance discovery after removing the worms from beehives, where they live. She put the worms in a plastic shopping bag, which became full of holes.

伯特科希尼也是一名养蜂人,她说,当她把这些蜡虫从它们生活的蜂巢中去除之后有了这一偶然发现。她把这些蜡虫放进一个塑料购物袋里,这个袋子变得千疮百孔。

Bertocchini worked with other researchers from the Spanish National Research Council and Britain’s University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry. She carried out timed experiments on the worms.

伯特科希尼跟西班牙国家研究委员会和英国剑桥大学生物化学系的研究人员共同合作。她对这些蜡虫进行了定时实验。

She says the worms can “do damage to a plastic bag in less than an hour.” When 100 worms were placed in a normal British plastic shopping bag, the holes began to appear in just 40 minutes.

她说,这些蜡虫可以在1个小时内破坏塑料袋。当100只蜡虫被放进一个英国普通塑料购物袋时,仅40分钟就出现了破洞。

After 12 hours, researchers saw “an obvious reduction in plastic mass.”

12个小时之后,研究人员发现塑料袋的质量明显减少。

They say a single enzyme produced by the worm is responsible for the chemical process that breaks down the plastic.

他们表示,这种蜡虫产生的单一酶造成的塑料袋分解这一化学过程。

They also found that the worms turned the polyethylene into a different organic compound called ethylene glycol. It is used in making polyester fibers as well as antifreeze for vehicles. It is not clear if the worms produce enough for commercial use.

他们还发现,这种蜡虫将聚乙烯转化为一种不同的有机化合物,这就是乙二醇。它被用于制造聚酯纤维以及车辆防冻剂。这种蜡虫是否能产生足量乙二醇用于商业用途尚不得而知。

Plastic is not the worm's natural food

塑料不是这种蜡虫的天然食物

Plastic is not the natural food for the wax worm. But the researchers say that since they lay their eggs in beehives, the larvae feed on beeswax.

塑料不是这种蜡虫的天然食物。但是研究人员表示,由于它们在蜂巢中产卵,幼虫就以蜂蜡为生。

“Wax is a polymer, a sort of ‘natural plastic,’ that has a chemical structure that is not dissimilar to polyethylene,” Bertocchini says.

伯特科希尼表示,“蜂蜡是一种聚合物,可以算是某种‘天然塑料’,它的化学结构跟聚乙烯差不多。”

Researchers say they still need to better understand how wax is digested, or processed, in the worm. Finding that out could lead to a solution for dealing with plastic waste.

研究人员表示他们仍然需要更好地了解蜂蜡是如何被蜡虫消化或处理的。找出这个原因可能会得出一种处理塑料废弃物的解决方案。

Bertocchini says they are planning to use this research to find a way to get rid of plastic waste. She says they are “working towards a solution to save our oceans, rivers and all the environment” from the problems of plastic waste.

伯特科希尼表示,她们计划利用这项研究找到一种处理掉塑料废弃物的办法。她说,她们正致力于找到一种解决方案,将我们的海洋、河流和环境从废弃物问题中拯救出来。

But, she adds, we should not throw polyethylene into the environment, “just because we now know how to biodegrade it.”

但是她补充说,即便我们现在掌握了生物降解技术,也不应随地丢弃塑料垃圾。

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

这项研究发表在《当代生物学》杂志上。

I’m Anne Ball.

And I'm Bruce Alpert.

Words in This Story

biodegrade – v. to break down by natural processes or bacteria.

riddle – v. to make many holes in with something

obvious – adj. easy to notice or see

organic – adj. of, relating to, or obtained from living things

polymer – n. a chemical compound that is made of small molecules that are arranged in a simple repeating structure to form a larger molecule

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