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‘Degrading Plastic Bags’ Daniel Burd, 2008 “Best of Fair” Winner

In 2008, then 16-year-old Daniel Burd, discovered a way to decompose plastic bags in as little as three months, winning the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

The decomposition of some plastic bags is estimated to take as long as 1000 years. With this in mind, Daniel set out to identify microorganisms that can break down plastic.

During his research Daniel isolated two microbial strains that appeared to most successfully degrade polyethylene (the most common plastic). Taking optimal concentrations of these two strains, Burd added sodium acetate to promote bacterial growth, and placed the mixture among several strips of common grocery bags. 43% degradation of the plastic was achieved within six weeks.

Burd is confident that this method can be applied on a larger scale, stating “Industrial application should be easy. All you need is a fermenter. . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”