Projects in progress  

Biodegradation of plastic waste in Tucumán: a novel alternative

We study the ability of insect species and their microbiota to degrade plastic materials.

Proyectos de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (PICT), and SECRETARIA DE ESTADO DE INNOVACIÓN y DESARROLLO TECNOLÓGICO (SIDETEC).


Currently, the dynamics and accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans are better known than in terrestrial environments, and it is clear that microorganisms both from the sea and from the land participate in plastic degradation of plastics. In Tucumán, Argentina, official data on the generation of urban solid waste shows that around 800,000 tons of waste reach the provincial landfill, half of which is organic and the other half is mostly plastic (Plan Argentina 2020 Report). Regarding other provinces, Tucumán is in the middle of the ranking in terms of per capita waste generation, with Buenos Aires being the province that generates the most (around 1.5 kg per capita) and Misiones the province that generates the least (0.40 kg per capita). For Latin America there are no scientific data showing which organisms manage to process this material to the point of turning it into food and using it for basic functions and for their development. We propose to start investigating this topic and generate solutions for Tucumán, with the potential to be applicable to other regions of the country and the world. Currently, we have already detected and isolated some moth larvae that consume plastics in Tucumán.

The objectives of our study are:
1) Identify the complex of moths (Lepidoptera: Heterocera) involved in the degradation of plastic, through taxonomic and molecular techniques.
2) Obtain the metagenomics of bacterial consortia from the microbiota of Achroia grisella, Galleria mellonella and Tineidae larvae that consume plastics.
3) Identify whether the plastic-degrading activity is due to bacterial biofilms present on the surface of the larvae or to a bacterial consortium of the microbiota of the digestive tract of A. grisella, G. mellonella and Tineidae.
4) Isolate bacteria from different portions of the body of A. Grisella, G. mellonella and Tineidae larvae and carry out degradation tests on different types of plastics.
5) Carry out dysbiosis of the digestive tract of larvae of the Tineidae family by means of transplantation of the microbiota of A. grisella larva (consumer of SB).


Responsible Researcher: Agustina Malizia (IER)
Responsible group: Alberto Galindo Cardona, Carolina Monmany (IER)
Collaborating group: Adriana Chalup, Eduardo Martin (Miguel Lillo Foundation, Faculty of Natural Sciences), Analía Alvarez (PROIMI) and Juliana María Ruiz Barrionuevo, Ricardo de Cristobal (INSIBIO, UNT-CONICET)

Contact: Agustina Malizia.

Some related articles:

Monmany-Garzia AC, Malizia A, Pazos R, Ruiz Barrionuevo JM, Argarañá MF, Garello N, Blettler M, Galindo-Cardona A, Occhionero MA, Martín E, de Cristóbal RE. 2020.
What do we ecologists study when we investigate plastic waste in terrestrial and freshwater environments in Argentina? Austral Ecology 30:7784.

Malizia A & AC Monmany-Garzia. 2019. Terrestrial ecologists should stop ignoring plastic pollution in the Anthropocene time. Science of the Total Environment 668: 1025-1029.