Peter Zytner

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.A.Sc.

Project: Home compostable alternatives to single-use packaging from bacterial bioplastics and their biocomposites

Department: School of Engineering (SOE) (CEPS)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

One of the biggest things that drew me towards pursuing an engineering degree for my undergrad was the idea of using that knowledge to solve some of the world’s problems. As I worked my way through my degree, I noticed how serious the global plastic waste crisis has become and decided that would be a good problem to try to tackle! I chose my Master’s degree in an area where I believe my research will have the biggest applicability to solve this growing issue, and I definitely think my work at the BDDC will help me do just that.

What about your research area excites you? 

I think the idea of a future where everyone can dispose of their plastic waste in a compost bin is extremely exciting. This is especially due to the fact it just seems like an extremely abstract idea at the moment. Thankfully, there is a real possibility that this could become reality in the near future. This would have many benefits over traditional waste management systems such as reducing the need for landfills and creating high-quality compost in the process!

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

The most challenging part of my research is trying to develop a plastic that is still compostable but is also durable enough to be used in everyday products. Creating an eco-friendly product is only helpful if it can functionally replace the non-biodegradable options currently being used and finding that proper balance can be challenging. These challenges can sometimes be overcome by thinking outside of the box and trying ideas that haven’t been tested yet.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

As the majority of my research involves mixing various types of plastic together in order to get the desired properties, I like to describe it as trying to find the right recipe for a particular application. The recipe changes depending on what you’re looking to use that specific plastic blend for. This strategy allows for very targeted applications of various types of bioplastic, which hopefully means that they can in theory be used for nearly any kind of product!

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Outside of my lab work, I enjoy spending time outdoors doing activities such as canoeing and hiking with my friends. Besides that, I am a member of the University of Guelph baseball team which I thoroughly enjoy competing with and training for year-round.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic? 

I think something that I and a lot of people may have taken for granted prior to the pandemic is the value of interacting with your friends and family in person. It was something that I assumed would always be available, until it wasn’t. While video calls are certainly better than nothing, it’s just not the same! I’ve learned to value the time I can spend with those people with a greater sense of appreciation than I would have if not for the pandemic.