plastic not fantastic

This happened back in 2008, but Daniel Burd, a 16-year-old school student, developed a way to make plastic bags degrade faster, achieving 43 per cent degradation within six weeks.

Using ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water he added plastic powder and dirt, creating a solution that encourages microbes which break down plastic to grow.

He details the way he conducted his experiments in this paper ::

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene (PE) which is a polymer consisting of long chains of the monomer ethylene. Plastic bags are very popular in our daily lives and have a harsh environmental impact on our ecosystems. Every year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide and billions of those are dumped into the oceans. Countless wildlife, including sea-lions, whales, birds and turtles ingest the plastic bags and die every year. Plastic bags have very high durability, persisting in the environment for 20 to 1000 years before they decompose. The development of a biotechnological approach to PE degradation is the main goal of this project. The hypothesis is that if PE-degrading microorganisms do exist in the Nature, then it will be possible to isolate them and use them for degradation of plastic bags.

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