Worms that can eat plastic could save us from destroying the planet.

You tell me what's more repulsive: A Styrofoam cup laying on the ground...

Photo by jnyemb/Flickr


...or a pile of slimy, pulsing mealworms?

Photo by OakleyOriginals/Flickr

Wait! Before you answer, what if it was more than just one piece of Styrofoam — like 33 million tons of it?

And what if it wasn't just cups, but Styrofoam packaging, water bottles, and all different kinds of discarded plastic?

And what if it wasn't strewn across the grass, but instead dumped into one massive trench? Or worse, what if a bunch of it was just floating in the ocean, waiting to be swallowed up by some helpless sea creature?

When you put it like that, the answer seems pretty obvious.

Yuck. Photo by Pascal Pochard Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images.

But here's something new and surprising: Those wiggly little mealworms might just be the key to fighting plastic pollution all over the world.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

Time for us to fess up: We, as a species, are not very good at recycling.

In the United States alone, every year we throw away about 33 million tons of plastic waste (including Styrofoam, which is basically fluffy plastic), with less than 10% of it being recycled properly.

Now, it's not all our fault. Modern recycling techniques have come a long way, but they aren't perfect. According to Popular Mechanics, materials like the ones used to make soda bottles can only be recycled (or "downcycled" into lesser products) so many times.

That means, one way or another, most of it will end up in a landfill eventually, where it could take centuries to biodegrade.

But it looks like we might be onto an amazing, if slightly unappetizing, solution.

Researchers just discovered that mealworms can eat nothing but Styrofoam, turn it into biodegradable worm poo, and get all the nutrition they need.

This is huge.

A collaborative study between Stanford University and Chinese researchers found that 100 of these mealworms, which are essentially baby beetles, could consume almost 40 milligrams of Styrofoam per day. Now, that's not a lot (it takes 453,592 milligrams to equal one pound), but the implications are much, much larger.

There are plenty of bugs out there that eat plastic, but this is the first time researchers have confirmed that what comes out the, er, other end is, in fact, totally natural. And even better? Eating the stuff doesn't harm the worms in the least.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

In other words, something magical is going on inside these mealworms that lets them turn hazardous plastic into harmless organic waste.

Studying the chemical environment inside the mealworms' gut that makes this possible might lead to better recycling techniques.

When I first read about this, I imagined government officials unleashing hoards of mealworms on our landfills for an epic buffet, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem super plausible — remember, they eat really, really slowly.

Image by Kitty Curran/Upworthy.

But what if we could emulate the mechanisms inside their stomachs that break down the plastic? If we could just recreate that environment on a larger scale, we wouldn't have to work so hard melting down bottles and turning them back into new bottles.

We could just transform them into the equivalent of worm poo, which the researchers say can be used as soil and is totally safe for the Earth.

But you know what? None of this will matter if we don't get better at sorting our trash and recycling the things that ought to be recycled.

I never thought I'd say this, but if we work together with the mealworms, we really can make a difference.

Heroes

If you had to choose, which would you rather have: a healthy father or a good father?

Studies suggest men often choose being a good father over being healthy.

Becoming a father is a major milestone in the life of a man, often shifting the way he thinks from being "me focused" to "we focused." But fatherhood can also shift how men perceive their health. Our researchhas found that fathers can view health not in terms of going to the doctor or eating vegetables but how they hold a job, provide for their family, protect and teach their children, and belong to a community or social network.

As founder and director of the Center for Research on Men's Health at Vanderbilt University and as a postdoctoral fellow from Meharry Medical College, we study why men live shorter lives than women, male attitudes about fatherhood, how to help men engage in healthier behavior – as well as what can be done to reduce men's risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Family

Here's to the stepdads who step in and step up to fatherhood.

Happy Father's Day to all the stellar stepdads.

Some fathers are there at the starting line. And some fathers step in partway through the race.

My biological dad left my mom when I was a toddler. I don't even remember living with him, and my memories of weekend visits throughout my early childhood are vague. He loved me, I'm sure, but he eventually slipped off the radar. He wasn't abusive or a massive jerk or anything. He just wasn't there.

Who was there was my Dad. My stepdad, technically, but for all intents and purposes, he was and is my Dad. He stepped in when I was four, and stepped up to raise two kids who weren't his. He went to the parent-teacher conferences, attended the school plays, surprised us with trips to the ice cream shop, taught us how to change a tire. He loved us, not just in word but in action.

As a parent myself, I now understand how hard it must have been to step into that role. Step-parenting involves unique relationship dynamics, and you have to figure a lot of things out as you go along.

My Dad had his own demons from his own childhood to deal with on top of that, and his cycle-breaking parenting still awes me. But he was always there to cheer me on, comfort me, and talk me through life's challenges. He wasn't perfect, but he was there, actively engaged in the marathon of fatherhood every step of the way.

Stepparents are often vilified in stories, but there are millions of awesome stepdads out there.

Without a doubt there are some terrible stepdads (and stepmoms) out there, just as there are some terrible parents in general. But there are a lot of great ones, too.

Alison Tedford's 11-year-old son Liam is lucky to have such a stepdad. Liam shares his time between his mom's and dad's house equally, but when he is with his mom, he's also with his stepdad, Paul. Alison says that Liam adores Paul, who stepped into the stepdad role when Liam was 7. Paul spent the first couple of years carrying Liam to bed every night, per Liam's request. Now that he's too big for that, they practice lacrosse and play video games together.

"To support Liam in his love of lacrosse, Paul took a lacrosse coaching course and is the team statistics manager," says Tedford. "They are best buds and Paul treats him with all the love and kindness he does his own kids. He drives him all sorts of places, goes on field trips, and makes sure he has everything he needs and is having fun. He's a really great stepdad."

These aren't the kinds of stories that make the news. But millions of stepdads dive into supportive, involved parenting as they fall in love with their loved ones' kids.

Having a stepparent is now about as common as not having one.

According to the US Census Bureau, half of the 60 million kids in the U.S. live with a biological parent and the parent's partner. And the most common stepfamily configuration—85% of them—is a mom, her biological kids, and a stepfather. That's a whole lot of stepdads.

Blending families can be complicated, and figuring out how to navigate those waters isn't easy. But family counselor and researcher Joshua Gold calls becoming a stepdad both "a challenge and an opportunity."

"The challenge comes in rejecting previously held beliefs about what it means to be a father," Gold wrote in The Conversation. "Stepfathers – and I count myself as one – must avoid outmoded notions of compensating for the absent biological father or paternal dominance."

"The opportunity comes in devising a parenting role that expresses the best and fullest aspects of being a man and a father figure," he wrote. "Done consciously and deliberately, the role and function of the stepfather can be tremendously fulfilling for all, and a source of lifelong joy and pride."

Here's to the stepdads who step into that role, step up to the challenge, and make the most of the opportunity to have a positive, nurturing influence in children's lives.

Family

Today, June 14th, is Trump's birthday, which is a hard pill to swallow for fellow Gemini sun signs, but here we all are: in hell with Trump.

Currently, on Twitter there is a trending hashtag #HappyBirthdayMrPresident in honor of his birthday, but it has quickly been overtaken by people wishing Obama an early birthday, and singing Obama's praises in general.

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Most Shared



The Poison Garden of Alnwick www.youtube.com


Plants have the power to heal us, yet plants have the power to harm us. There's an unusual garden that's dedicated solely to the latter. The Poison Garden located on the grounds of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England is the deadliest garden in the world. In the Poison Garden, you can admire the plants with your eyes, but you're not allowed to touch or smell anything, because every plant in the garden is poisonous, and can possibly even kill you. The name of the garden should be a dead giveaway.

The garden was created in 2005 when Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland, wanted to show people the scariest plants around. "I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill," the Duchess said. "I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it, and how gruesome and painful the death might be." Honestly, she's got a point.

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