Ukrainian developer has created a plastic eater: a student from Lviv, came up with a new method of dealing with waste

Украинец создал пожирателя пластика: студент из Львова придумал новый метод борьбы с мусором

The competition in MOSTRATEC-2019, which was held in Brazil, was presented 400 projects. Lviv Dmitry Solomianik participated in the category “Ecology”, which competed with 60 participants. “Defense before the jury lasted three hours, — says Dmitry. Nine hours was given to the exhibition, during which everyone could approach and ask about my project. Most of all I was struck by the huge number of children. They came with their friends, parents, teachers, asked a lot of questions. It is particularly interesting to them was to ask about the development of science abroad.” Once approached by a guy whose name is very similar to mine, and told me that his grandmother from Ukraine. It was very nice.

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“If the capsule is not dissolved in the salt water, we can use it in the ocean”

— How do you propose to deal with plastic waste?

It’s very simple. We have the forces of nature can help in the fight against environmental pollution. This fungi and bacteria. There is, for example, bacteria that decompose the plastic into elements, and through special protein absorb it. And I had the idea to create for these bacteria shell. We put the bacteria in a special capsule and distributed in landfills. There they gradually take root and begin to absorb plastic.

— In landfills are different types of plastic. With your technology you can get rid of only polyethylene?

— Actually, there is a considerable list of bacteria and fungi, which can feed different types of plastic. But I decided to start my experiment with the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis that scientists found only in 2016. She eats plastic type PET, that is its main food — plastic bottles. If I can experiment with this bacterium, gradually we will be able to spray and others which will absorb various types of plastic.

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— And why put bacteria in a capsule? Why not just spray?

Imagine that in a hundred years people will live on Mars, says Elon Musk. To get there, take the ship. On Board will be water, food, air and others needed to adapt to the new planet objects. Capsule for bacteria is for us the spacecraft with everything you need to get accustomed to the new climatic conditions. The capsule give the bacteria time to adapt, it is also a good means of transportation and distribution. For example, due to the material from which made, the capsule can float in water. If it is not destroyed in salt water, we can use it in the ocean, known now to the whole world the island of plastic.

By the way, in Brazil I met a guy who works with bacteria that absorb oil. And he asked me for permission to use my idea with the capsule for their experiments. I agreed. Was very pleased that this technology can serve someone else.

“One bottle, which contains several thousand of these bacteria is about two and a half thousand dollars.”

— Is it expensive to make a reality of what you have to offer?

I believe that the technology is not too expensive. In addition, the bacterium can not only buy, but to find. When you purchase you acquire a modified lab-grown bacteria, in fact, an improved version of natural. One bottle, which contains several thousand of these bacteria is about two and a half thousand dollars. But you can save. For example, a friend of mine went to the great scrapheap in Los Angeles, and found there the needed bacteria. Its effectiveness is not as good as a modified, but still a decent option.

The capsule can be made from all kinds of waste, giving it any shape. For example, for the contest I made a capsule in the form of a candy, using candy wrappers, so that some members of the jury thought it was really sweet.

Next you need to make a thick substance in which to place the bacteria. To do this, I take ground into powder plastic, mixed with a special bacterial broth, which is very inexpensive. Incidentally, in this broth the bacteria can be and multiply. Then they are placed in the capsule with special machines distributed to landfills.

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The most expensive in the technology mechanism, creating a capsule. Now I have a model, which is specially adapted for the trip to Brazil. During the competition it was impossible to use heating elements, so sealed capsules, I could not. This requires a special clip-soldering, since capsules require point of sealing.

But with the machinery by which the capsule can be spread on the landfill easier. You can use what we already employ in everyday life. For example, machines for spraying sand on the roads would do well with the spread of the capsules. Also suitable for drones, small planes and snow cannons.

In Ukraine, the bacterium, most likely, it will be possible to apply seasonal, because of the differences in temperature she doesn’t like. In countries with more mild climates, it can live and breed in landfills year-round, no evaporation it does not threaten, because it is its natural environment. However I have another problem. That’s when you hear the word “bacteria”, what associations do you have?

— Not very pleasant.

And so almost all people. Most of those who find out about my technology frightened. So, if you start to implement it without adequate information campaigns, people may begin to panic. To avoid this, I have to inform the General public that this bacterium is no threat to the person is not responsible, it is fed exclusively by plastic.

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According to my calculations, under ideal conditions, one bacterium eats two millimeter plastic for six to ten weeks. It’s fast and slow at the same time. Just think — every year, humanity produces about 300 million tons of plastic. A thousand years, this plastic does not decompose, it will turn into microplastics — small particles, like sand. They’re in the air, they will begin to absorb fish, Pets, they will be in the water, earth, vegetables, fruits. And then everything will be in humans. This is a disaster!

Украинец создал пожирателя пластика: студент из Львова придумал новый метод борьбы с мусоромDmitry Solomianik: “Just think — every year, humanity produces about 300 million tons of plastic”. Photo courtesy of Dmitry SOLOMIANKA

So, in my opinion, albeit slowly, but should start to get rid of the plastic. So my project started to be implemented, needs to be powerful communication between developers, authorities, environmental, community and people. But some bacteria will not help. I believe that we need to reduce the use of plastic in everyday life. For example, going shopping, not to bring a plastic bag, and a backpack or reusable cloth bag. To drink in a cafe juice possible without plastic tube. At first glance, little things, but bags, straws and bottles — it’s overflowing landfills.

Recent studies show the dangers are to the environment and human health of micro-plastic particles — the decay products packages, bottles, packaging, including so-called biodegradable plastic. Micro-plastic particles can damage internal organs (intestines, liver), to enter the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Many plastic components have a negative impact on the endocrine system, trigger the formation of blood clots. Once ingested, microplastics of emit dangerous chemicals: pesticides, bisphenol-A (BPA) that Deplete the hormones that stop the growth of cells.

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On the prevalence of the micro-plastic telling are the numbers: 9 and a half million tons per year micro-plastic gets into the oceans, 85 percent of the samples of drinking water around the world discovered the micro-plastic particles. It is available in fish (both marine and inland), earthworms, Packed in sea salt, beer. At the same time, the world health organization still does not believe that the microplastics in drinking water poses a health threat.

“I want to stay in their country”

— Dmitry, how did it happen that you decided to tackle such a serious problem?

The school was and got straight a’s and a b+, but always interested in many issues. I remember I was 13 when I found out about the competitions held by the Minor Academy of Sciences, institutes. Then I thought: “am I worse than other children who take part in it?” And started to create own projects. Something worked, something failed, but I realized one thing: not to lose enthusiasm.

Then he enrolled at the Lviv technological Lyceum. There met two special people to me — the Sorcerer Viktor Petrovich and Postelnogo Vasily Mikhailovich, which on my future activities a huge impact.

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Later, when I was in USA and Brazil, had the opportunity to see how there are many agencies that help young scientists grants, mentoring, databases for projects. For me, this base became the Minor Academy of Sciences. I am very grateful to its employees that can at any time to call to consult. I am glad that the Kyiv Polytechnic University supports me in my plans.

— Now that you have seen opportunities abroad, I can confidently say that you wanted to work in Ukraine?

— Yes, I intend to remain in your own country. Might go to gain experience in American or European counterparts, but will definitely be back. I think many, like me, want to be in Ukraine it was possible to live with dignity. It is therefore time for us to do something for this.

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