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
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

Inclusivity

15 'habits' of people who grew up with an 'emotionally fragile' parent

Having an emotionally fragile parent can leave lasting damage.

via The Mighty

If you grew up with an "emotionally fragile" parent, chances are, you didn't have the typical, idyllic childhood you often see in movies.

Maybe your parent lived with debilitating depression that thrust you into the role of caregiver from a very young age.

Maybe your parent was always teetering on the edge of absolute rage, so you learned to tiptoe around them to avoid an explosion. Or maybe your parent went through a divorce or separation, and leaned on you for more emotional support than was appropriate to expect of a child.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Jasmine has been used as a natural treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress for thousands of years. Oil from the plant has also been used to treat insomnia and PMS, and is considered a natural aphrodisiac. It turns out, our ancestor's instincts to slather on the oil when they wanted a little R&R were correct.

A study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and according to Professor Hanns Hatt of the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, revealed that jasmine can calm you down when you're feeling anxious.The results can "be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy."

"Instead of a sleeping pill or a mood enhancer, a nose full of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides could also help, according to researchers in Germany. They have discovered that the two fragrances Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) have the same molecular mechanism of action and are as strong as the commonly prescribed barbiturates or propofol," says the study.

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Nature