Polystyrene waste

Beetle larvae that eat polystyrene may help solve plastic waste crisis

Expanded polystyrene is used for food containers

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Beetles with larvae that can digest polystyrene may help to solve the world’s mounting plastic waste crisis. Expanded polystyrene, which is used to make cups and boxes, is increasingly clogging up landfill and polluting oceans because it doesn’t biodegrade.

Until recently, no organisms were known to be able to break down polystyrene. But Hyung Joon Cha at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea and his colleagues have discovered that the larvae of a north-east Asian beetle called Plesiophthalmus davidis can do the job.

When the researchers …