Eat Your Plastic-Munching Pests (It’s All In Your Head) | Medea Vox

It was recently discovered that common mealworms can biodegrade styrofoam. In this third episode of Medea Vox, we discuss how these plastic-eating worms might influence how we will live with—or without—plastics, and what it’s like to eat worms.

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A meal with mealworms. Photo: Kristina Lindström
A meal with mealworms. Photo: Kristina Lindström

Perhaps you’ve heard the news story about the plastic-eating worm—the mealworm—which is the larva form of the mealworm beetle. And if you haven’t, the story goes like this: Researchers at Stanford University recently discovered that mealworms have quite the appetite for styrofoam—a plastic material that is commonly used, for example, for disposable coffee cups, cushioning material in packaging, and as insulation in buildings.

Researchers Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström are exploring how the plastic-munching mealworms might influence how we in the future will live with plastics—or without plastics? As part of the artistic research project—Hybrid Matters—they encourage people to keep mealworms in their homes; watching them eat Styrofoam and then using the droppings as soil fertilizer in their balcony herb gardens. Did I mention that mealworms are also edible? Baked or fried, your choice!

Host is Pille Pruulman-Vengerfeldt, associate professor in media and communication studies at Malmö University. Guests are Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström, post-docs at Umeå Institute of Design and senior lecturers in media and communication studies and interaction design respectively.