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Student Research Project: Biodegradation of Plastic Through Worms

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a type of plastic that poses serious impact to the environment. The ingestion of EPS can kill animals and cause harm to the entire food chain. It takes one thousand years for the complete degradation of EPS in nature. Previous work showed that mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), superworm (Zophobas morio) and greater waxworm (Galleria mellonella) are capable of digesting EPS. However, the use of worms for EPS degradation is not popular because of the slow rate.

 

To speed up the EPS degradation by worms, a research project was carried out by three S.1 students (Fu Kwun Him (1M), Yeung Cheuk Hin (1N), Hung Sze Chit (1N)). They monitored the effect of different additives on EPS consumption, weight gain, survival percentage and molting percentage of different types of worms continuously for a month. They foundthat food waste compost (FWC) is an effective additive to accelerate EPS consumption in mealworms. Their findings shed light on a potential industrial application for degrading EPS. Not only could the method degrade EPS in a more efficient manner, it could also provide a proper use of food waste.

 

Their work was recognized with a merit award in the 22nd Hong Kong Youth Science & Technology Innovation Competition (HKYSTIC) in June 2020. Later, they submitted their work to a journal called “The Journal of Emerging Investigators” (https://www.emerginginvestigators.org/). It is an open-access journal run by Harvard University that publishes research conducted by middle and high school students. Their work was reviewed by three professional researchers,including a research scientist at NASA, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and a PhD Candidate at the University of Oregon. After several revisions, their work was finally published on the journal in July 2020.Their paper is available online: https://www.emerginginvestigators.org/articles/two-wrongs-could-make-a-right-food-waste-compost-accelerated-polystyrene-consumption-of-em-tenebrio-molitor-em

 

學生研究項目:塑料的生物降解

聚苯乙烯(EPS)是一種對環境造成嚴重影響的塑料。動物攝入EPS會致死,並對整個食物鏈造成傷害。自然降解EPS需要一千年。先前的研究發現黃粉蟲(Tenebrio molitor)﹑超級黃粉蟲(Zophobas morio)和大蠟蟲(Galleria mellonella)能夠消化和降解EPS。但是,由於降解速度較慢,以蟲降解EPS的方法並不普遍。

 

為了加快EPS的降解,三名中一學生(傅冠謙(1M),楊卓軒(1N),洪思哲(1N))進行了一項研究。他們連續一個月監測了不同添加劑對不同蟲的EPS降解,體重增加,存活率和蛻皮率的影響。他們發現廚餘堆肥(FWC)是一種有效的添加劑,可加速黃粉蟲降解EPS。他們的發現可以應用於工業上。該方法不僅可以更有效降解EPS,而且還可以有效利用廚餘。

 

學生的研究在2020年6月的第22屆香港青年科學與技術創新大賽(HKYSTIC)中獲得了優異獎。後來,他們將其研究提交給了《新興研究者期刊》(Journal of Emerging Investigators (https://www.emerginginvestigators.org/))。該期刊是哈佛大學開辦的開放式期刊,出版由中學生進行的研究。三位專業研究人員對學生的研究進行了同儕審查。其研究人員包括NASA的研究科學家,哈佛大學的博士後研究員以及俄勒岡大學的研究員。經過幾次修訂,學生的研究終於在2020年7月發表在期刊上。他們的論文可以在線閱讀: https://www.emerginginvestigators.org/articles/two-wrongs-could-make-a-right-food-waste-compost-accelerated-polystyrene-consumption-of-em-tenebrio-molitor-em

 

Plastic-eating worms:

降解EPS的黃粉蟲﹑超級黃粉蟲和大蠟蟲

Dissecting a mealworm in order to isolate plastic-eating bacteria in its gut:

解剖黃粉蟲以分離其腸道中可降解塑料的細菌:

Students monitored the effect of food waste compost (FWC) on EPS consumption and lifecycle of different types of worms continuously for a month:

學生連續一個月監測了廚餘堆肥對EPS降解和蟲的生命週期的影響

Students found that food waste compost (FWC) is an effective additive to accelerate EPS consumption in different types of worms:

學生發現廚餘堆肥是一種有效的添加劑,可加速黃粉蟲降解EPS。

Students’ work was published on 《Journal of Emerging Investigators》:

學生在《新興研究者期刊》(Journal of Emerging Investigators)上發表了其研究:

Students’ work was recognized with a merit award in the 22nd Hong Kong Youth Science & Technology Innovation Competition (HKYSTIC).

學生的研究在第22屆香港青年科學與技術創新大賽(HKYSTIC)中獲得了優異獎

Reference:

Fu KH, Yeung CH, Hung SC, To ACY. Two Wrongs Could Make a Right: Food Waste Compost Accelerated Polystyrene Consumption of Tenebrio molitor. Journal of Emerging Investigators. 2020 Jul 13. Vol 3. p.1.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2020 11:15