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Boy discovers microbe that eats plasticPhDs have been searching for a solution to the plastic waste problem, and this 16-year-old finds the answer.264Like 4.8k 18Alla Rogerio Gama Rose Jasmine Facebook social plugin Michael Lorie Maritizi Pinda Singh Erin

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It's not your average science fair when the 16-year-old winner manages to solve a global waste crisis. But such was the case at last May's Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, Ontario, where Daniel Burd, a high school student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, presented his research on microorganisms that can rapidly biodegrade plastic. Daniel had a thought it seems even the most esteemed PhDs hadn't considered. Plastic, one of the most indestructible of manufactured materials, does in fact eventually decompose. It takes 1,000 years but decompose it does, which means there must be microorganisms out there to do the decomposing. Editor's note: There are two high school students who have discovered plasticconsuming microorganisms. The first was Daniel Burd. The second was Tseng I-Ching (last month), a high school student in Taiwan. Could those microorganisms be bred to do the job faster? That was Daniel's question, and he put to the test with a very simple and clever process of immersing ground plastic in a yeast solution that encourages microbial growth, and then isolating the most productive organisms. The preliminary results were encouraging, so he kept at it, selecting out the most effective strains and interbreeding them. After several weeks of tweaking and optimizing temperatures Burd was achieved a 43 percent degradation of plastic in six TODAY'S MOST POPULAR 1. EDITORS' PICKS

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Boy discovers microbe that eats plastic | MNN - Mother Nature Network

weeks, an almost inconceivable accomplishment. With 500 billion plastic bags manufactured each year and a Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch that grows more expansive by the day, a low-cost and nontoxic method for degrading plastic is the stuff of environmentalists' dreams and, I would hazard a guess, a pretty good start-up company as well. NOTE to the comment below: Yes there are certainly methods for decomposing plastic, but most are chemical in nature not organic, requiring high temperatures and chemical additives to cause the plasticizers to vaporize, for instance this patent on PVC extraction. There have been several successful bacteria-based solutions developed at the Department of Biotechnology in Tottori, Japan as well as the Department of Microbiology at the National University of Ireland, but both apply only to styreneEmail Share

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compounds. It goes without saying that these discoveries need to be tested to ensure, for instance, that the byproducts of organic decomposition are not carcinogenic (as in the case with mammalian metabolism of styrene and benzene). The processing of plastics by these methods would also have to be contained in highly controlled environments. So, no, we're not talking about a magic panacea or a plastic-free paradise, but the innovative application of microorganisms to break down our most troublesome waste products is nevertheless a major scientific breakthrough. NOTE: One of our readers pointed out a very interesting study in 2004 at the University of Wisconsin that isolated a fungus capable of biodegrading phenol-formaldehyde polymers previously thought to be non-biodegradable. Phenol polymers are produced at an annual rate of 2.2 million metric tons per year in the United States for many industrial and commercial applications including durable plastics. COMMENTS: This story has generated a flurry of feedback since it was posted on June 12, 2009. Here's a compilation of the best and brightest comments. Don't do RSS? Follow all Karl Burkart posts and tweets @greendig or on Facebook.

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04/11/2012 03:05 AM

Ahaa, its nice conversation about this post at this place at this webpage, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting here.Like (0 Likes) | Reply

ABOUT KARL BURKART Report This Post Internet entrepreneur on green media and technology.


02/09/2012 14:29 PM

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Everyone needs to help create a system to safely recycle 100% of all human-generated waste materials, while there is still time, before the biosphere collapses under the enormous and growing tons of our garbage, sludge, junk, chemicals, smoke and fumes.

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it is biggest solution for our earth..........

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prettyvixious nice article.

10/24/2011 09:12 AM

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08/12/2011 04:39 AM

hoe to kill this sphigomaonas (plastic eating bacteria) they can not be degraded in any natural environment... PGi: Better for your business, better for the planet Jeef 07/22/2011 00:59 AM

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And what are the waste products of these little wonders?

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07/22/2011 23:36 PM KARL'S BLOGROLL EcoGeek Fast Company Physorg Tech TrendHunter Eco Getting Hot in Here Web Ecoist

You can think of a better question than that, can't you?

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Anonymous you didnt

07/31/2011 23:01 PM

Red Green and Blue Treehugger Triple Pundit

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07/09/2011 11:02 AM

.... does anyone smell Apocalypse?

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07/10/2011 14:03 PM

The smell you perceive is the accumulating gargage, sludge, junk, smoke and fumes produced by 7 billion ambitious consumers who are too busy to be bothered with safe recycling and peaceful family planning education. Imagine a living planet, a biosphere afflicted with a raging parasite that devours and pollutes everything. You and I belong to that species and our fate is sealed UNLESS we agree to safely recycle 100% of all our waste products and peacefully reduce our population with family....More

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Boy discovers microbe that eats plastic | MNN - Mother Nature Network

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07/02/2011 18:01 PM

Even though almost everyone knows about t