Remember George Carlin’s hilarious skit about plastics? Here is the transcript:
“The planet … is a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, ‘Why are we here?’”
Not so fast! According to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology by co-authors Professor Jun Yang and Yu Yang of Beihang University, and Stanford University engineer Wei-Min Wu, plastic is biodegradable.
“Plastic, long considered nonbiodegradable and one of the biggest contributors to global pollution, might have met its match: the small, brownish, squirmy mealworm. Researchers have learned that the mealworm can live on a diet of Styrofoam and other types of plastic. Inside the mealworm’s gut are microorganisms that are able to biodegrade polyethylene, a common form of plastic.”
Good news for the planet and for humanity.
Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org.