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article imageOntario Teen Finds Way to Avoid Mountains of Plastic Bags

By KJ Mullins     May 24, 2008 in World
When Daniel Burd, 16, was doing his science fair project he latched onto the idea that plastic bags could be broken down much quicker than 1,000 years. The kid was right. His reseach shortens break down time into a mere 3 months.
As reports:
"Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me," he said. "One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags."
The Waterloo, Ontario teen figured out a way to break down the polymers in plastic bags. Burd a student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute hypothesized that since the bags would eventually break down there had to be a way to speed up the process. He isolated and augmented the degrading agents.
The thing is, the process is pretty easy. Burd combined the polyethylene plastic bags he had ground into a powder, sodium chloride, dirt from a landfill and a yeast mixture in shakers for four weeks at a temperature of 86 degrees. At the end of the month he took a sample from that mixture and combined it with a new one, hoping to increase the overall concentration of microbes. After one more repeat, Burd put fresh plastic bags in the solution for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks the plastic had degraded almost 20 per cent. After figuring out which microbes were working the best he increased the degradation to 32 per cent.
As reports:
"The process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags. As a result, this would save the lives of millions of wildlife species and save space in landfills."
By the way Burd won the Canada-Wide Science Fair. He took home $30,000 in awards and scholarships.
More about Daniel burd, Plastic bags, Science fair project
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