Caterpillar can feed on polyethylene.
By accident researchers discovered that the larvae of the moth Galleria mellonella can eat plastic made of polyethylene. They do not only eat it but also digest it into glycol, which can be degraded in nature after it has been excreted by the larvae. In contrast, polyethylene itself degrades very slowly and can remain in nature for a long time. Broken down to smaller particles, so-called microplastics, this has created a worldwide concern for plastic pollution. The next step will be to find out how the caterpillars do this and maybe use that process to clean up plastics in nature. It also remains to be seen whether other types of plastic (there are many types!) can be cleaned up like this.