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Recipe For Plastic Decomposition

Plastic Bags

It's good to know that tomorrow's scientists are solving environmental problems today.

Meet Daniel Burd from Waterloo, Canada. Daniel's interested in science and recycling. As a 16 year old, he was annoyed by the avalanche of polyethylene plastic shopping bags that his mother horded in a closet. Every time he'd open the closet, bags tumbled out.

Daniel knew that to just throw the bags away would mean sending them to landfills, where they'd sit, without decomposing, for, oh, millennia.

So for his school's science fair, Daniel isolated the microbes that break down polyethylene. First, he ground plastic bags into powder, then mixed in tap water, yeast, and a dash of dirt.
Six weeks later his "bag powder" weighed 17 percent less! So he tried again, adding sodium acetate, which helps microbes grow. Another six weeks and his bags decomposed 43 percent.

His project earned him a $10,000 prize, $20,000 in scholarships and interest from industry.

The real winner could be Mother Earth, since we produce 500 billion of these bags annually, Burd's recipe could also save the lives of wildlife that die from eating bags, and save space in landfills.

Not to mention Mrs. Burd's closet.

Script by Bob Rhein

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