"They Called Her Styrene", the intriging yet dark title from Ed Ruscha's book (1) sounds like a warning. Despite its mystical tone, Styrene is one nasty substance. And we are swimming in it: a sea of polystyrene bids in a fog of styrene. Several million tonnes of pristine white coffee cup, immaculate insulation pannels and snowy packaging material are pushed out of factories every year. Only a tiny fraction of it is being recycled. Ubiquitous Polysterene is here to mingle with ecosystem for hundreds of years. Carried by thousand ants and sailing the open sea it is building up a new plastic continent.
But there is hope. As discovered by Stanford and Beihang University(2), Mealworm larvae can biodegrade polysterene. The larvae digest plastic and turn it into CO2 and carbon. According to the scientists this diet does not impact their health. Building up on this optimistic discovery, STV designed a domestic scale recylcing plant for polystyrene cup. A tiny ecosystem merging synthetic, organic & vegetal.
1 ISBN 9780714840116, They Called Her Styrene, Ed Ruscha, Phaidon
2 Biodegradation and Mineralization of Polystyrene by Plastic-Eating Mealworms: Part 1. Chemical and Physical Characterization and Isotopic Tests, Jun Yang, Yu Yang, Wei-Min Wu