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      Plastic agriculture using worms: Augmenting polystyrene consumption and using frass for plant growth towards a zero-waste circular economy.

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          Polystyrene (PS) is one of the major plastics contributing to environmental pollution with its durability and resistance to biodegradation. Recent research has found mealworms ( Tenebrio molitor) and superworms ( Zophobas morio) to be able to utilize PS as a carbon food source and degrade them without toxic effects. In this study, the effects of food additives on plastic consumption augmentation were studied, with small additions of sucrose and bran found to increase PS consumption. To close the plastic carbon cycle, we also evaluated the use of worm frass for dragon fruit cacti ( Hylocereus undatus) growth and found that superworm frass supported rooting and growth better than mealworm frass and control media over a fortnight. Superworms, apart from being known fish and poultry feed, have been shown to be a suitable natural solution to the PS plastic problem that can support plant growth towards a zero-waste sustainable bioremediation cycle.

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          Author and article information

          UCL Open: Environment Preprint
          UCL Press
          21 December 2020
          [1 ] A*STAR

          This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

          The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

          Entomology, General environmental science, Life sciences

          Biodegradation, Mealworm, Superworm, Frass, Polystyrene, rooting, agricultural support, waste management , Waste, Environmental science, Circular economy


          Date: 4 February 2021

          Handling Editor: Dr Craig Styan

          Editorial decision:

          Declined for publication by the Editors of the journal and withdrawn from submission. This preprint (and all other versions of it) will remain online in the preprint server with its registered DOI, but the article is no longer under consideration for peer review in UCL Open: Environment and the authors are free to submit this manuscript to any other relevant journal of their choice. For more information about this please read the journal’s Editorial Policy online at

          Comments from the Handling Editor:

          Thank you for your revision following version 1 peer review. Unfortunately, we still  feel you have been unable to adequately address many of the more serious concerns expressed by the version 1 reviewers about the level of detail provided about experiments and why particular measurements (and not others) were made.  In particular, while previous studies may have provided evidence of polystyrene consumption (and digestion) by mealworms, the evidence for this in your study appears to be limited. That you argue to not be concerned with consumption per se (just degradation) does not seem to align with experiments in which food additives were added and, as pointed out by the reviews, whether plastics are consumed or simply degraded presumably makes a large difference to whether this is a sustainable solution to plastic waste (and then also to the subsequent discussion in the manuscript).  Similarly, the revised version of the manuscript has not addressed the many of the key criticisms regarding statistical testing and their interpretation, details about the cactus experiments and how the GC measurements relate to the hypotheses being tested overall.

          2021-02-05 14:07 UTC

          Date: 06 January 2021

          Handling Editor: Craig Styan

          The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment Preprint for open peer review.

          2021-01-06 17:20 UTC

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