Did you know the research behind that study on expanded polystyrene eating worms was originally inspired by storage troubles in a Chinese kitchen?
Wei-min Wu, who leads the widely reported Stanford University project on plastics-eating worms, told Plastics News that he is building on his Chinese collaborators' research initiated at China's Beihang University on waxworms breaking down polyethylene bags.
In a recent interview with New York-based The China Press, Wu explained that the Beihang research team started the project more than a decade ago. The idea came from team lead Jun Yang, who noticed little holes on the plastic bags he used to store grains (such as millet and wheat flour) in his kitchen. He also noticed little worms and moths in the affected grain. From there, he set out to conduct research on insects' digestion of plastics.
In December 2014, Wu, Yang and coauthors published a paper titled “Evidence of polyethylene biodegradation by bacterial strains from the guts of plastic-eating waxworms” in Environmental Science and Technology.
Last month, they published a companion study, “Biodegradation and mineralization of polystyrene by plastic-eating mealworms” in the same journal.
Wu was born in Chengdu, Sichuan province in China. He moved to the U.S. in 1984. He received a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan State University in 1991 and worked at the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI) for 10 years before joining Stanford University as a senior research engineer in 2001.