Plastics designed for insect digestion
Plastics design and research has an increased focus on the overall life-cycle and end-fate. Historically, many strategies incorporate natural materials to produce a bio-based (or semi-biobased) plastic as a starting point and aim for specific microbes (such as aquatic microbes) to break down the plastic.
However, insects have emerged as a higher-level organism capable a degrading plastics such as polyethylene and polystyrene at a molecular level by breaking down structures typically thought of as non-degradable.
Wax moths, mealworms and black soldier flies (BSFs), amongst other insects, have already emerged as extremely fascinating candidates for plastic degradation with other projects looking into how BSFs handle plastics from degradation to by-product. However, this degradation process is not complete, with potential plastic residue still needing to be addressed.
We’re aiming to develop plastics with the end-fate of insect digestion, utilising their superior degradation potential.
This project will span over the polymer design, synthesis, processing, testing and end-stage insect degradation, including waste by-products.
By tracking each part of the design to destruction process, we hope to manufacture a product which can replace other single-use and disposal plastics with equivalent physical properties and processability, including superior degradation potential by insects.