‘Bioplastic from banana peel’ teenage girl wins award

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 7th August 2013

A Turkish teen whose science project developed a method to make bioplastic for electrical insulation cables from banana peels has won the second annual Scientific American Science in Action Award.

The $50,000 award, which is supported by the Google Science Fair, Elif Bilgin, 16, will have access to a year’s mentorship and has been invited to take part in the overall Google Science Fair in September 2013.

“My project makes it possible to use banana peels, a waste material which is thrown away almost every day, in the electrical insulation of cables,” Ms Bilgin said. “This is both an extremely nature-friendly and cheap process, which has the potential to decrease the amount of pollution created due to the use of plastics, which contain petroleum derivatives,” she said.

The judging panel elected Ms Bilgin’s project, ‘Going Bananas! Using Banana Peels in the Production of Bio-Plastic as a Replacement for Traditional Petroleum-Based Plastic’, from a pool of 15 finalists, who were culled from thousands of submissions from more than 120 countries for the 2013 Google Science Fair.

“Thomas Edison famously said, ‘Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration’,” said Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American and Chief Google Science Fair Judge. “He would have found a kindred spirit in Elif Bilgin, who spent two years toiling away on her project to develop a bioplastic from discarded banana skins. We admire her persistence and her wonderful work,” she said.

In September, Ms Bilgin and one of the other finalists will travel to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, to present their projects to an international panel of finalist judges, including science luminaries, technology innovators and Nobel laureates. They will compete for prizes that include $100,000 in scholarship funds, time at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Google or the LEGO Group, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a $10,000 grant to the Grand Prize winner’s school. The winners will be announced at a gala on 23 September 2013, which will be streamed live on the fair’s YouTube channel.

Scientific American has partnered with the Google Science fair, an annual international online competition, since it launched in 2011. The Scientific American Science in Action Award was created to recognise a project that can “make a practical different by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge”.

A teenage girl has made bioplastic from banana peels