Teen Scientist Makes Plastic Out of Banana Peels
Christina Sarich, Staff Writer
The Google Science Fair has recently awarded Elif Bilgin, a 16-year old from Istanbul, Turkey, $50,000 as part of the Science in Action Award, Google’s annual science trophy given to people who make a practical difference by addressing environmental, health, or resource challenges that we face as a modern society.
This young scientists spent two years developing her bioplastic from discarded banana peels. She was inspired by Thomas Edison’s quote, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” It took many trials and only in her last two attempts was she able to make a product that would not decay, even though it came from a fully benign, organic substance that most of us throw away.
From her research, Bilgin learned that starch and cellulose are used in other ways in the bioplastic industry (such as from mango skins) and she was hoping to develop something that could take the place of the many petroleum based plastics that we use today, which are harmful to our health and bad for the environment. She believes her banana-based bio plastic could be used for things like insulating electric cables or in cosmetic prostheses. This young mind wants to go into the medical field. She beat out 14 other contender’s for Google’s prize, and hopefully her great ideas will help to reshape an industry that usually puts profit ahead of human benefit.
When interviewed about why she entered the Google Science Fair, Bilgin responded:
I had been working on my project long before I found out about Google Science Fair. When my project was nearly finished, I started to look for a competition in which I could enter my project. I actually searched “science project competitions” on the Google Search Engine (a happy coincidence) and Google Science Fair was the first result I found. After I read the guidelines, I decided it was the competition I was looking for: not only were the entrants encouraged to share their ideas and innovations, but they were also encouraged to join Hangouts on Air, which allowed them to meet actual scientists. But, most important, they were encouraged to have fun.
When asked ‘What does being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist mean to you, Bilgin said:
For me, this means that my project actually has a potential to be a solution to the increasing pollution problem caused by petroleum-based plastic. It also means that I have started the process of changing the world, which makes me feel like a winner already.
When asked, ‘If you could have dinner with any three scientists throughout time, whom would you choose?’:
I would choose James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.
Maybe there is hope is for the world after all.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.
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