Andover students turning heads with project to reduce plastic trash in ocean

ANDOVER, Mass. — Viral social media images of plastic-choked oceans create outrage, but two students at Andover High School may just be creating a possible solution to the problem.

Veni Dole and Puloma Bishnu are members of the MIT-sponsored BioBuilders Club and are using science to solve real-world issues.

“Veni just thought, ‘What about all this plastic? It’s such a big problem on earth,’” junior Puloma Bishnu said.

“So we’ve designed a bacteria that can be used to breakdown plastic if we place it on a water bottle and then that bottle goes into the ocean and then that bacteria would produce two enzymes and would degrade the bottle,” junior Veni Dole said.

The students say the bacteria would go on a label attached to plastic bottles. Once the bottle is submerged in ocean water, the enzymes activate, breaking down the bottle to reduce the sea of trash in the ocean.

They presented their project at the Global BioSummit professional conference at MIT this fall and were finalists in the national CleanTech competition.

“Whatever problems they can identify, we can teach them the science to solve it,” Andover teacher and BioBuilders advisor Lindsey L’Ecuyer said.

“To see young people be innovative, be creative, especially young women and to really believe that the sky is the limit…or maybe not even the limit you know is really what we believe success looks like,” added BioBuilder Educational Foundation Founder Natalie Kuldell.

Veni and Puloma are still refining the DNA and hope to start experimenting on the plastics by end of their senior year.

RELATED: Climate Matters: How New England is being impacted by our changing climate