Cup ex­per­i­ment sur­prises kids

The Bay Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BAYLEY MOOR

A school science project to see how well cof­fee cups broke down in com­post has re­vealed some sur­pris­ing results for Kaeo stu­dents.

Jes­sica and Nina Quin­lan with Lizzy Var­ney thought that the seven cof­fee cups they com­posted would strug­gle to break down, af­ter learn­ing that most ‘‘biodegrad­able’’ plas­tics needed to be com­mer­cially com­posted.

For their ex­per­i­ment, three com­post bins with seven take­away cups each, were mon­i­tored over four months, with all of the cups break­ing down to al­most noth­ing.

Their lids how­ever re­mained largely intact, with the stu­dents only notic­ing small tears in the plas­tic.

‘‘We were quite sur­prised at how fast they broke down, af­ter the first and sec­ond months, there was the most change,’’ Jes­sica says.

‘‘Our re­search said that biodegrad­able cups needed a com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity, so we weren’t ex­pect­ing them to break down.’’

They were dug up monthly, and pho­tographed with the ex­per­i­ment results to be pre­sented at the Far North Science and Tech­nol­ogy in Au­gust.

The home schooled trio had been in­ter­ested to find out how well the cups broke down, so they col­lected take­away cups from six ven­dors in Kaeo and 20 in Kerik­eri. Of these only eight were la­belled as be­ing biodegrad­able.

The test cups, left out in the el­e­ments, barely broke down at all, lead­ing the stu­dents to be con­cerned about the num­ber go­ing to land­fill and re­main­ing intact.

Be­tween 100-200 mil­lion dis­pos­able sin­gle-use cups are es­ti­mated to be used each year in New Zea- land.

Nina says a so­lu­tion is to en­cour­age peo­ple to take re­us­able mugs for their hot drinks, while Lizzy says cafe own­ers could of­fer a dis­count for drinks made in re­us­able cups.

When the cups were col­lected in March the ven­dors were in­ter­ested in the stu­dents’ project, and a let­ter is be­ing drafted to in­form the own­ers of their results and a re­quest for a dis­count for peo­ple us­ing re­us­able cups.

The stu­dents have also been in­volved with or­gan­is­ing two road­side cleanups in Kaeo and re­cently have be­gun sewing re­us­able fabric bags to be used at their lo­cal su­per­mar­ket.

A logo fea­tur­ing the Kaeo sign will be printed on the bags, and once they have 100 they will go to the Kaeo Four Square.

Kaeo stu­dents Lizzie, Jes­sica and Nina have been sur­prised to find their cof­fee cups biode­grade.

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