One Generation’s Mess is the Next One’s Science Project

From Canada, there comes a heartening environmental tale: A 17-year-old high school junior has won one of his country’s most prestigious scholastic science prizes by successfully experimenting with ways to degrade a modern ecological menace, the plastic bag. Daniel Burd won the $10,000 dollar Canada-Wide Science Fair by isolating soil microbes that devoured 43 percent of a polyethylene sample in a few weeks.

Burd, who also has received $35,000 in university scholarship offers, collected soil samples from a landfill and, after months of experimentation, isolated two microbial strains that effectively degraded a powdered form of polyethylene. Burr hopes to continue his research and help solve the problem of what to do with the uncountable billions of plastic bags now drifting around the planet or buried in landfills. Said Burd, “We don’t have a spare world in our back pocket.”