Limerick student takes on single-use plastics with help from food waste        

Rebecca Laffan

Reporter:

Rebecca Laffan

Email:

rebecca.laffan@limerickleader.ie

Limerick student takes on single-use plastics with help from food waste        

Orna Collins accepting her award from Margie McCarthy

A LIMERICK student is set to represent Ireland at an international science event in the US next year with her unique environmentally-conscious project. 

Orna Collins, a second-year student in Castletroy College Comprehensive, was selected from over 10,000 students as the winner of the Broadcom MASTERS at the 2019 SciFest National Final recently. 

The 14-year-old from Ballina will take her project, which involves the use of food waste in the creation of biodegradable plastic-like materials, to Anaheim, California next May where she will compete against students from all over the world at the International Science and Engineering Fair. 

“I hope this could be an alternative to single-use plastics,” said Orna, who will also be taking the project, using potato scraps, to the upcoming BT Young Scientist competition next year. 

Orna creates the bioplastic from water, glycerol (a type of sugar), starch and vinegar, and includes extra ingredients such as eggshells and coffee grounds to increase strength and elasticity. 

Orna says the material takes two days to make, and resembles a glue-like texture before drying into a plastic that can be molded into items such as spoons or even phone cases. 

While environmentally-aware and passionate about sustainability, Orna did not take part in recent Climate Strikes and said: “Activists are drawing attention to the issue, which is great, but they’re not actually making a solution or solving the problem.”

The National Final, held in the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin on November 22, was attended by Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment and Orna was presented with the award by Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement Science Foundation Ireland.

Sheila Porter, SciFest CEO, said: “The level of innovation, enthusiasm and determination has been wonderful to see today. As SciFest grows each year, we grow more excited to see what new experiments and projects are thought of and created. Huge congratulations to Orna!”

Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD said, “Climate disruption is the biggest challenge facing this generation. It is fantastic to see so many young people engaging with the issue and looking at practical, creative solutions which could contribute to our response. I congratulate all the students, but in particular Orna on her winning entry.”