Could the final solution of growing plastic pollution be in the hands of a Teenager?

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by Zoralys Rojas

Posted on August 8, 2019

Could the final solution of growing plastic pollution be in the hands of a Teenager?

That´s what a report of CNN, published on 4 August 2019, says: A young, 18-year-old from Ireland may have found a way to rescue our oceans from the growing plastic pollution problem.

The good news is that his project won the first place of US$50,000 in educational funding. But let´s check out how this history began.

In the interview for CNN, the teenager said that “while he was out on that walk in his coastal hometown of Ballydehob, he ran across a stone with oil and plastic stuck to it”. He was very concerned about finding out how many plastics enter in the wastewater system and finally in the oceans, that led him thinking about how to develop a new extraction method.

He wrote his project and presented at the Google Science Fair that is an organization which encourages students from 13 to 18 years old from around the world to submit their experiments and projects in Science and Technology to be selected by a panel of judges.

In the article published by CNN, we can also read how microplastics were removed (in smaller pieces it´s used as body scrubs, toothpaste, water issues, for instance). He explained that because of the tiny size of these microplastics, they're able to pass through water filtration systems and ultimately harm marine life affecting the oceans.

 

“In the presence of water, ferrofluids -- nontoxic magnetic liquids made up of oil and magnetite, an iron-based rock mineral -- attract the microplastics because both have similar properties”.

In his project, Fionn Ferreira added oil and magnetite to water and mixed in a solution emulating plastic waste in the ocean so when the microplastics latched on to the ferrofluids, he dipped a magnet into the solution three times to remove both substances, leaving clear water.

After almost 950 tests, the method was quite effective in removing microplastics from water, surpassing Ferreira's expectations.

Now, he's excited to go further in his education at the University of Groningen's Stratingh Institute for Chemistry in the Netherlands, where he will continue with his passion for science and environment.

It´s always good news that Science, young talent and sensibility for environment issues match in this kind of awards that encourage people to think about how to make our planet a better place to live. Now, another great idea would be that within a few years, we can see Environment Organizations or Researching Institutes working together on improving and developing this technology for its use all around the world as it should be.

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