What comes to mind before you discard your banana peel?
Certainly not the consideration of its use to reduce petroleum-based pollution and create bio-plastic, yet this is exactly what Elif Bilgin, 16, from Istanbul, Turkey, sought to achieve and successfully accomplished. Winner of the 2013 Science in Action award, Google’s third $50,000 annual competition, she addressed the need for environmentally friendly alternatives with practical resources and easy-to-attain banana peels.
A motivated and compassionate scientist, Elif was driven to find an alternative from petroleum produced plastics to benefit the environment. In her journal she mentions that Thailand discards 200 tons of banana peels per day, therefore the starch and cellulose so important for plastic production could be put to much better use. From her research she discovered that potatoes and mango peels are already commonly used, therefore in Koc High School, Turkey, she began experimenting.
Over the period of two years, her trials using banana peels many times ended with disappointment; 10 failed experiments that created plastics not strong enough or too easily decayed did not slow her down, however. Fueled by past scientist’s determination, she wrote “Even Thomas Edison said ‘I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Her persistence resulted in triumph with her last two trials, both creating plastics that had features she sought.
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