In 2008 Daniel Burd, 16, discovered a process for breaking down plastic bag polymers—compounds that often last over 1,000 years—in three months. Since plastic does eventually degrade, Burd looked to isolate the microbes responsible and increase the speed at which they work. He found a simple way to do so, speeding decomposition rates up over 40% and nabbing Canada's national science fair title. Applied on an industrial scale, his technique could reduce landfill use.
Photo via TheStar