The problem and plague of plastic bags was eating away at Daniel Burd. So, for his science fair project he decided to find out what eats away at plastic bags.
After testing various methods and reaching the formidable goal of isolating two strains of plastic-eating microorganisms (Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas), Burd found that plastic bags could be significantly decomposed in about six weeks, with total decomposition taking around three months.
Scaling this to industrial applications should be easy, Burd says: "all that's needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat."
While many places around the world have already banned the use of plastic bags, existing bags still threaten waters, wildlife and the planet, and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are produced each year and the UN Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter in every square mile of ocean.
Burd's discovery provides significant steps forward and he has recieved $30,000 in awards and scholarships for his work.
Photo by Zainub used via Creative Commons.