Energy & Sustainability Science
Decomposing plastic with bacteria
plasticBagDecompose.jpg

Science Fair project FOR THE WIN! According to a piece on Wired Science, a 16-year-old high school student, Daniel Burd, from Waterloo, Ontario, has figured out a way to quickly decompose plastic (like that used in shopping bags) by letting bacteria eat it. He presented his findings at the high school science fair.

The Record reports that Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew. The plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature; after experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.

I like how the piece ends:

Amazing stuff. I’ll try to get an interview with this young man who may have managed to solve one of the most intractable environmental dilemmas of our time. And I can’t help but wonder whether his high school already had its prom. If he doesn’t get to be king, there’s no justice in this world.


Teen Decomposes Plastic Bag in Three Months

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn