The Solution to the Plastic Problem

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The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby Sabina » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:43 pm

The below text (and image) are exactly as published in the Discover Magazine (see below).

__1__

It’s In the Bag! Teenager Wins Science Fair,
Solves Massive Environmental Problem

Image
    We’ve all heard the plastic bag horror stories—the billions of bags discarded every year that wind up polluting oceans, killing wildlife and getting dumped in landfills where they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Researchers have been wracking their brains for years to figure out a solution. But leave it to a Canadian high school student to leave them all in the dust. Daniel Burd, an 11th grader at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, has discovered a way to make plastic bags degrade in as little as three months—a finding that won him first prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, a $20,000 scholarship, and a chance to revolutionize a major environmental issue.

    Burd’s strategy was simple: Since plastic does eventually degrade, it must be eaten by microorganisms.
If those microorganisms, as well as the optimal conditions for their growth, could be identified, we could put them to work eating the plastic much faster than under normal conditions.

With this goal in mind, he ground plastic bags into a powder and concocted a solution of household chemicals, yeast and tap water to encourage microbe growth. Then he added the plastic powder and let the microbes work their magic for three months. Finally, he tested the resulting bacterial culture on plastic bags, exposing one plastic sample to dead bacteria as a control.

Sure enough, the plastic exposed to the live bacteria was 17 percent lighter than the control after six weeks. Once Burd examined the most effective strains of bacteria, he was able to isolate two types—Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas—as the plastic munchers. At 37 degrees and optimal bacterial concentration, the microbes had consumed 43 percent of a plastic sample within six weeks.

Next up, maybe it’s time to put him to work on this whole carbon emissions thing.


__14__


My first reaction was a slight confusion and eerie calmness. It sounds great at first glance, but I didn't build up any enthusiasm at all when I read it. I usually get enthusiastic rather easily. Instead I thought "This is step 1. Are they thinking about step 2?"

What are your thoughts?
"Whether You believe you can, or you can't, you are right."
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Re: The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby mirjana » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:11 am

Sabina wrote:..
My first reaction was a slight confusion and eerie calmness. It sounds great at first glance, but I didn't build up any enthusiasm at all when I read it. I usually get enthusiastic rather easily. Instead I thought "This is step 1. Are they thinking about step 2?"

What are your thoughts?


Before explaining my thoughts about this news, I would like to know what did you mean by
"This is step 1. Are they thinking about step 2?"
I do not want to assume, better to know excatly what were your thoughts. Thanks =0)
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Re: The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby Heidi » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:24 am

I don't know much about chemistry, biology or bacteria, but the first thing that crossed my mind while reading this, is that if bacteria find a lot of food, they will prosper.

What will the consequences be if bacteria multiply much faster? Are they harmful to other forms of life or the environment in general?
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Re: The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby Sabina » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:28 am

Thank you Heidi... <3
That would be the step 2 I mentioned... that is what was on my mind as well. Not to mention, even if it's "environmentally friendly", it could just go berserk over plastic in general.. and not just the plastic we direct it towards, couldn't it?
Anyway, those were my thoughts..
It simply doesn't sound like a logical solution. They are once again treating the symptoms instead of taking care of the problem, which is a very common mistake made by humans.
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Re: The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby Ryan » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:32 am

It could be interesting... I am fairly sure that this bacteria would need a certain environment in which it can flourish, and therefore, it just running wild and getting out of control shouldn't be a large problem to keep under check. However... as with most things... you have to be aware of mutations in which the environment becomes less of a problem... due to evolution possibly?? Whatever... as Sabina said... it's treating the symptoms not solving the problem... and as with all these other "Godly" attempts of man, I am fairly certain, there would be some "unforeseen" repercussions of this as well.
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Re: The Solution to the Plastic Problem

Postby mirjana » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:14 pm

Many great answers.
Good that I asked instead of assuming the understanding of step 2 mentioned in Sabina's first post.
My thoughts went into another direction, of how we, people, even if the idea be very productive at the very first moment, transform its utility into the tool of destruction. Probably therefore the following thought Sabina said sounds great:
"They are once again treating the symptoms instead of taking care of the problem, which is a very common mistake made by humans."
The best solution is to care of the problem instead of finding the solutions that will create more problems.
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