Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Teenagers discovers how to decompose plastic bags in months

As we are all reminded constantly by environmentalists, plastic bags take 100's of years to decompose. Just last week an official at the United Nations called for a global ban on plastic bags precisely because they decompose too slowly.

I mention this because I wonder how the green movement will react to this news about how a bit of scientific inquiry and discovery by a teenager can find a solution to the problem that doesn't require authoritarian global bans?

Daniel Burd , a 16 year old Canadian showed at a Canada-wide science fair how he had managed to get a plastic bag to decompose in just 3 months. He discovered that the Sphingomonas bacteria along with a helper bacteria called Pseudomona were responsible for degrading polythene.

The industrial applications of this are, according to the young scientist, quite easy. He told The Record,
"All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags."
The Record went on to note that,

The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide -- each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide
A future Nobel winner perhaps? No more land filling plastic bags or legislative action, just a an industrial bacteria driven degrading plant. No doubt the CO2 output of the bacteria will be enough to cause some environmentalists to wince though.

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