Can Super Worms Save the World From Styrofoam Domination?!?
Michelle Vu
David Thompson Secondary
Floor Location : J 225 V

Does oil affect the Super worm’s ability to degrade Styrofoam? From past research done by Mr. Wei-Min Wu, a researcher from Stanford University, meal worms are capable of degrading Styrofoam. This finding, inspired a question, “can super worms degrade sunflower oil covered Styrofoam?” Styrofoam is building up in landfills all around the world, causing many environmental problems. Styrofoam products are estimated to be around 30% of the landfills on Earth, therefore if Super worms can degrade oily Styrofoam this finding could help degrade Styrofoam not only faster but also more efficiently, clearing up space in the landfills.
To investigate if Super worms were able to degrade sunflower oil covered Styrofoam, three sets of plastic containers with twenty-two Super worms and a sunflower oil covered Styrofoam cup in each. Observations and data were collected over a two-week period. Three trials were conducted. The results were: 98.5% (65 out of 66 worms died) of the Super worms died within 72 hours and 1.5% (1 out of 66 worms survived) of the Super worms survived.
After completing this experiment, a new question was sparked. What caused the death of the Super worms? Was it the oil that suffocated the worms or did the oil covered Styrofoam clog up their digestive system that lead to their death? A dissection was conducted on a Super worm to find what its digestive track may look like. Was the digestive system clogged up? Unfortunately, the dissection was not successful as the microscope was not powerful enough to observe the intestinal parts clearly.
The next focus was to investigate why one Super worm was able to survive for 14 weeks with the oil covered Styrofoam. Researchers are currently working on extracting gut bacteria and finding ways to use them to break down Styrofoam. If the gut bacteria of the surviving Super worm can be extracted, and isolated then Styrofoam can be broken down quickly and safely.
Can Super worms survive by feeding off a sunflower oil Styrofoam cup? The result from this experiment proves that Super worms can. With further research and lab experiments, scientists can find gut bacteria that can be used to degrade Styrofoam products; therefore, helping detox the Earth from the accumulation of Styrofoam.