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Student figures out how to decompose plastic bags in 3 months Answered


I figured that with the green contest going on, people would be interested in this, although they should be with or without a contest.


. Impressive work! . But without knowing what he's left with in the bucket after the bacteria do their thing, it's impossible to tell if this will help the environment. I still think recycling works best for plastics.

I whole-heartedly agree,but I still thought this was interesting, and thought that it could be a building block to something bigger, maybe for communities that lack a recycling program? I'm not exactly sure, but I like the idea.

. I wasn't trying to denigrate his idea/research, only that there was not enough info given in the short article.

Again, I agree with you, I wish there was more there... unfortunately, there isn't more at that particular source, and I haven't had time to research it, so there might be an update to this post if I figure anything new out.

Well plastic bags are generally considered non recyclable so this is big... Linuxh4xor found a way of cating with tem, though not ideal it's a start and it can work with other stuff, such as milk crates, I've used them for onfires once upon a time, you light a corner and the whole thing melts down, like a wickless candle... Also until we find out the by products we don't really know what the effect wlll be...

Au contraire! Plastic bags are generally made of HDPE or LDPE (#4, I think). A plastics expert told me that HDPE is one of the -easiest- plastics to recycle; hence the bag collection for recycling at most grocery stores (around California, anyway.) Meanwhile, thirty + years after the first Earth Day, the big grocery chains are finally encouraging, even selling cheaply, re-usable grocery bags. To their credit though, most have been offering 5-10 cent "rebates" if you bring your own bag, which more and more people are doing, rebate or not. Trader Joe's, favorite food store of millions, has raffles. They give you a little ticket for your name and phone #. If your name is pulled in a weekly drawing, you win a 10 dollar gift card. I think it's very shrewd, most customers get no more than a paper ticket and the hope of winning, they probably save far more than cost of the gift cards they give away, and fewer disposable bags are used. And the rarely give out plastic bags at all. Now if only the non-food retailers would get on the bandwagon. Walgreens, are you listening? ;-)

We aren't allowed to recycle plastic bags in our area - apparently the shredders at the recycling plant can't cope with them and jam.

We can take them back to our local Tesco and shove them in a special recycling bin there, but we prefer to semi-compromise: we usually use "proper" shopping bags, but occasionally get carrier-bags and then use them as bin-bags. No increase in the number of bags being used (we would otherwise be buying bin-liners), and the carriers are free.

The plastic is easily recyclable but due to the nature of the bags alot of recyclers aren't interested for whatever reason, despite them being quite an easy source of raw plastic, from what I gather it's a thermoplastic so you could literally remelt them and make new things.

Land fills may be a valuable resource in the future because of all the plastic and metals they contain. The price of plastics could go up, as we run out of petroleum, and discover new uses for them. Valuable materials in landfills could be mined, or someone in the future may engineer a microbe, bug or plant to dig down and recover them. In that case it would be a good idea to preserve the contents. Just an out of the box thought.

On the upside I've worked out how to make the biodegradable bags degrade bascially the conditions of a landfill are the worst possible for this kind of stuff, however it's not hard to degrade them at home or if my soon to come experimentation yields results you could be talking about daily degradation rather than taking ove a year...

If you get a picture, this may be featured.

This si cool, I wonder how it would work with degradable plastic bags, they take around 18 months to fully degrade, the shop I work in uses them, I may have a go at that...

That sounds plausible, If you end up trying it out, post the results here or in an Instructable, I'm interested.

I have a few of them here, I maytry a few things, like sunlight for one, heat for another and similar yeast cultures, since they degrade so fast by normal standards it should be easy to see fast results...


10 years ago

Alas, landfills are designed not to allow biological decomposition of Anything, because decomposition stinks. The whole "bio-degradable product" thing is a bit of a scam, unless you're planning on littering :-(

See also Mutant 59 ? or The Man Whose Name Wouldn't Fit ? It's not clear that a plastic-decomposing microbe would be a good thing to let loose in the world.


10 years ago

When you said "a student" I imagined a biology degree student with a university lab, not a 16 year old schoolkid with a bucket full of yeast! That's doubly awesome that he managed to do this as a science fair project. I reckon the next step should be a trial injecting the bacteria into a landfill site- if you could digest the plastic out of landfill, presumably what remained would be a lot of metal and glass that could possibly be reclaimed?