Plastic-eating Caterpillar

Yet again, we find ourselves turning back to “mother-nature” for answers with regards to environmental restoration.

Announced on BBC news only days ago, we’ve now discovered a caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic.

Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax.

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world.

The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.

Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study.

“The caterpillar will be the starting point,” he told BBC News.

“We need to understand the details under which this process operates.

“We hope to provide the technical solution for minimizing the problem of plastic waste.”

Visit the source link on BBC News for more information!

PNNL’s Biocrude Oil

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) have developed a new method for treating human sewage to create a biocrude oil product that can be refined into a fuel akin to gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels.

The process is called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), and it has been described as a sped-up version of the way the Earth naturally creates crude oil. Researchers apply a considerable amount of heat and pressure to wastewater, breaking down its chemical components into biocrude and an aqueous liquid in minutes.

PNNL says that wastewater treatment plants handle approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. In a Reddit AMA held last week, Justin Billing, one of the scientists on the project, noted that sewage traditionally has three destinations—being turned into fertilizer or soil additive, going in a landfill, or being incinerated. Some wastewater treatment plants (though not all) will also use anaerobic digestion, which “reduce[s] the volume of solids and mitigates the toxic load while also producing methane that can be used for heat and power at the plant,” Billings says. But anaerobic digestion alone can’t solve the whole equation. “From a capital intensity perspective it is reasonable to consider a hydrothermal process like HTL when designing, upgrading, or expanding existing facilities,” he suggested.

Although sewage sludge has been converted to biocrude before, previous methods were considered uneconomical because the sludge had to be dried out before conversion. HTL, on the other hand, pressurizes the sludge to 3,000 pounds per square inch and then heats it up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit (349 degrees Celsius), a process that’s amenable to some liquid being present in the feedstock.

Visit source article with a video from Arstechnica!

Wolves: The Protectors of Rivers

wolvsandtrophiccascade

We Love Animals make a fascinating point that wolves (in this case Yellowstone National Park) help to contain the dispersion of water in rivers by regulating the population of deer and other familiar prey which feed on vegetation. In the headlines to their video they prime you that 14 wolves were released in a park within Yellowstone in 1995 and were able to see how their return and presence in their natural environment sparked the means for the land and rivers to stabilize. Check out this video to see how important they are in the whole trophic cascade of life on our amazing planet.