Some people might throw away leftover food or an old laptop without thinking much about it, but not biological engineering student Nathan Guymon.

Guymon, a junior at USU, recently won second place in a video contest sponsored by the International Solid Waste Association, an Austria-based nonprofit, for creating a minute-long, animated video explaining just how much waste humans around the world create.

The video uses quick animated sequences to present information and put it into context.

Every year, the video states, we produce 2 billion tons of waste — enough to fill 100 semi trucks every minute. That includes 40 million tons of electronic waste, which is like throwing away 800 laptops every second. We also create 2.9 trillion pounds of food waste, equivalent to one-third of the world’s food supply.

“We’ve all done it at times,” he said. “We buy something thinking we need it and then two weeks later we find it in our fridge and we can’t use it anymore.”

Out of 34 entries from 15 countries, Guymon’s won second place and earned a $900 prize.

The contest combined several of Guymon’s interests. He said he has always been fascinated with biology, chemistry and math, so biological engineering was the perfect program for him. In addition, he grew up watching science videos and eventually started making his own. Over the past year, he said he’s been putting more effort into adding more professionalism to his animation. He’s always been interested in science, and he wants to make that knowledge easier for more people to understand.

In his biological engineering classes at USU, he has been learning about biological solutions to the world’s waste problem. He said it’s all about identifying a problem and finding a way to solve it.

Fracking, for example, produces a lot of waste fluids.

“We’re learning more and more (that) you can use bacteria and algae to clean the fracking water versus just having to dump it somewhere,” he said.

More common problems include finding purposes for animal waste, wastewater and food waste. Guymon said some facilities, like Central Valley Water Reclamation in Salt Lake City, put food waste in anaerobic digesters to produce methane and natural gas to power their wastewater treatment facility.

When it comes to inorganic material, like electronic waste, Guymon said there are three important words: reduce, reuse and recycle. He said companies like Apple recycle old electronic devices to make parts for new smartphones.

Unfortunately, Guymon said people often buy food and don’t end up using it, or they buy new electronics and throw the old devices away, where they sit in a landfill. With his videos and continuing coursework, he hopes to change that mentality.

“You just really don’t think about how much you end up throwing away,” he said. Twitter: @RealSeanDolan


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