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my science fair project

Postby dana.scrappy » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:15 pm

I want to know if anybody did my project before and where they got the information, because I can not find the information for

What kind of paper decomposed fastest when buried in dirt?

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Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:11 pm

Re: my science fair project

Postby LisaBug » Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:03 pm


This is an interesting question.
Why do you want to know this?
Are you looking at waste/recycling aspects of paper? or soil organisms that eat paper? Soil chemistry? Paper chemistry?

Once you decide try looking up the key terms. Try using the words soil or sediment instead of dirt.

This article might give you some leads:

Good luck,

dana.scrappy wrote:I want to know if anybody did my project before and where they got the information, because I can not find the information for

What kind of paper decomposed fastest when buried in dirt?

Former Expert
Posts: 2671
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:45 pm

Paper decomposition project

Postby donnahardy2 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:51 pm

Hi Dana,

Here is a project that is similar to your topic:

http://www.selah.k12.wa.us/SOAR/SciProj ... aBbio.html

But you will want to design a completely original project. For this topic, you need a purpose for doing the project. Do you want to study the decomposition of several kinds of paper using similar conditions, or do you want to find the fastest way to decompose one type of paper? For a really good project, you should identify a problem that needs an answer. For example you might want to contact a recycling center and find out what type of paper is most difficult to recycle. Or find out if there's any type of paper that not accepted at recycling centers. That would give you a topic to design a controlled experiment form.

Once you have a purpose, you need background information on paper decomposition. You will need to answer the following questions:

1. What is the composition of paper? Here is a website that covers the chemistry of paper.


If you have not had a chemistry class, you may want to ask a few more questions about this subject.

2. Next, you need to find out how paper decomposes. Since paper is composed of cellulose, which is a polymer of glucose, it can be decomposed by chemical methods such as burning it or hydrolyzing it in acid. Or, it can be decomposed by microbes, which can use cellulose as a food source. Here are a couple of websites that give some background on this subject.

http://uk.encarta.msn.com/text_78153279 ... ition.html

http://uk.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_ ... ition.html

3. Assuming that you decide to study microbial degradation of paper, you need to know about microbial growth. Microbes that degrade cellulose can be found in the soil, or in the stomachs of animals such as cows that can use cellulose as an energy source. The rate of microbial growth is determined on the availability of all necessary nutrients, temperature, oxygen, pH, presence of inhibitors and moisture.

Here is an example of a study on the microbial degradation of cellulose. It's a little complicated, but I think it will give an idea of what you might do.

http://www.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph/ofin/R&D% ... namics.doc.

I hope these ideas will give some ideas to get to the next stage of your project. Remember that you will want to design an experiment where all conditions are controlled, except the variable (type of paper, conditions of paper decomposition), which you decide to study. Please do try to get your project started in time so you will have time to repeat the results. And you can have a completely original project.

The chemistry of paper decomposition is a really interesting subject. Let us know if you have any questions.

Donna Hardy

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