This week, the girls in Girlstart After School were environmental engineers. To begin, they tested the solubility of salt and sugar in water, finding that while salt is completely soluble in water, sugar is not. The girls then hypothesized the solubility of four items: newspaper, packing peanuts, popcorn, and packing pellets. They then placed each item in a cup of water to observe the effect. To their surprise, only the packing pellet dissolved. The girls observed that the water had little effect on the newspaper and the packing peanut, and the popcorn just grew soggy.
The girls were then tasked with predicting how long household items take to dissolve, such as Styrofoam and plastic bags. Most we astounded to discover that a Styrofoam cup takes one million years to break down. A plastic bottle takes forever, or never, to dissolve. Plastic bottles and soda cans take 500 years to disintegrate.
The girls concluded that packing pellets are more sustainable for the environment than packing peanuts because the pellets reduce waste. However, the solvents such as salt and packing pellets present the problem of invisibly contaminated water. The girls then identified and compared renewable and nonrenewable resources and discussed the impact on these on the environment. Our young environmental engineers left conscious of the effect human waste has on the environment!