Olga Yakimenko, a master's degree student of the Faculty of Geography, Geoecology and Tourism, is working on an unusual project – an environmentally friendly litter bin – that demonstrates people how much harm to the environment we do by just throwing away our rubbish. The bin consists of a metal frame with a soil layer and plants growing on top of it. The soil layer is mixed with various items of rubbish that we most often see in the forests. At the bottom of the bin, there is information about the harm each type of rubbish does to the environment. A tray that collects all the extra water that comes from the soil divides the top and bottom parts of the bin.
– I study ecology, and I can't just look on how recklessly people throw litter everywhere they go. So, I decided to make something that would demonstrate how much harm we do. My groupmate Alina Archba and I designed and made the bin ourselves from the old materials we found in the university's backyard, – the young scientist told us.
Our litter bin demonstrates the decay process that we usually do not see. Two years ago, the bin was placed at the Faculty of Geography, Geoecology and Tourism, and a lot of teachers and students grew really interested. The bin can also provide useful data for scientific studies. Thus, associate professor Tatiana Pozhorina suggested studying soil samples from the bin every year. Yet, it is a very long time until any results of this research can be obtained, because the decay period of say plastic materials is over 50 years.
– If we go to some popular vacation place in the city or nearby and dig a one-metre hole in the ground, we will surely find empty plastic bottles, bags, bottle caps, fags, etc. All this rubbish damages plant roots and causes dramatic changes in soil condition and water cycle. The decay products are also highly toxic. When they get into the ground together with rain and snow, they go further to the subsoil water, to the lakes and rivers, poisoning fish that we then eat. Thus the toxic elements get into our body, are stored in our organs, and cause chronic illnesses, – says Olga Yakimenko.
The researcher tries to keep natural conditions within the bin. The plants that grow on top of the bin serve as biological indicators. For the last two years, the cigarettes fags and packages have decayed completely (apart from those wrapped in plastic). Plastic materials, however, have not undergone any changes.
– I don't want to blame anyone. I'm sure, people who throw away rubbish don't mean any harm to the environment, they are just not aware of how dangerous it may be. I think that such bins should be placed in every school, so that children could watch the decay process for all the 11 years and see for themselves how much damage it causes to the environment. And they may also get interested in science, – says Olga Yakimenko.
Some scholars say, that about 80% of all the rubbish is recyclable, but there are no recycling plants yet in our region. Olga Yakimenko hopes that her project will help to raise public awareness of the problem.