Science Fair Wiz Kid Creates Hungry Microbes That Feast on Plastic Bags

July 30, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A 16-year-old science fair winner from Waterloo, Canada may be responsible for saving the environment from the 500 billion plastic bags that pollute our land and oceans worldwide every year.

The polyethylene plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, but high-school student Daniel Burd found a way to significantly degrade plastic within three months.

Daniel Burd’s environmentally friendly project won first prize at the nation-wide Science Fair in Ottawa, earning him a $10,000 prize and a $20,000 scholarship. Burd conceived the idea to find a way to degrade plastic bags, from opening his closets at home that were continually stuffed with them.

He decided to isolate microorganisms that were capable of breaking down plastic bags. Burd engaged in numerous home-science experiments, beginning with a solution of yeast, water, plastic powder and dirt to encourage the growth of microorganisms. Eventually Burd was able to isolate the microorganisms down to four, which he grew in agar cultures, finding that only one was able to eat away at plastic.

Next, Burd mixed the most effective strain with other contenders and discovered two microorganisms, Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas actually worked best together in tandem to degrade plastic at a rate of 32 percent.

Burd and his teacher, Mark Menhennet believe Burd’s research, isolating the two unique microorganisms is a scientific first. The pair found only one reference from an Irish scientist that Pseudomonas can degrade polystyrene.

After further experiments, adding sodium acetate at a temperature of 37 degrees, Burd achieved a significant improvement of the plastic degradation rate at 43 percent. “This is a huge, huge step forward . . . We’re using nature to solve a man-made problem,” said Burd.

The enterprising student hopes his research can be used on a commercial scale to help clean up the environment.



3 Responses to “Science Fair Wiz Kid Creates Hungry Microbes That Feast on Plastic Bags”

  1. Twitted by CBSueMichaels on July 30th, 2009 9:00 pm

    […] This post was Twitted by CBSueMichaels […]

  2. Science Fair Wiz Kid Creates Hungry Microbes That Feast on Plastic … @ WETONG Blog on July 30th, 2009 11:47 pm

    […] more here: Science Fair Wiz Kid Creates Hungry Microbes That Feast on Plastic … Business, Entertainment, Health, Home, News, Reference, Science, Sports, Tech, Worldcuriosity, […]

  3. LR on November 6th, 2009 5:45 pm

    Wow! Doesn’t he deserve more than just $30,000?? How about a lab of his own??

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