Soiled Undies?

COURTESY OF YOLANDE KLIESE, SCOTT MAXWELL AND FAMILY; ABASLI TOGHRUL/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM (UNDERWEAR)

CHOW DOWN: Pure cotton is made of sugar called cellulose— the perfect food for worms and microbes. After eight weeks in healthy soil, there’s almost nothing left!

Students in Australia and New Zealand are burying underpants in the dirt—for science! They’re taking part in a global experiment called “Soil Your Undies.” Volunteers plant a pair of new cotton briefs in the ground and uncover them six to eight weeks later to see how well they decompose.

Healthy soil is filled with worms and microbes like bacteria and fungi. These organisms break down organic matter in things, like cotton, and release nutrients. “If your soil is in tip-top shape, all that may be left behind is the elastic waistband,” says Oliver Knox, a soil scientist at the University of New England in Australia, who helped organize the program.

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