Lineups at drive-thrus are often long enough for anyone to thoroughly ponder life’s mysteries, whether it’s your concerns for the future or what movie to see on the weekend.
For Kristi Hayko, it was enough time to inspire an award-winning science project.
“I was actually going through the Tim Hortons drive-thru one morning and it drives me insane every single time because I see the garbage bins through the drive-thru and the waste bins are always overflowing with Tim’s cups and the recycling bins are always empty,” said the Grade 12 student at Winston Knoll Collegiate. “And I think, why can’t we just do something about this?”
Hayko looked into it, but found that Tim’s cups can’t be recycled because of a waxy coating on the inside. The same goes for a lot of other fast food boxes and wrappers. So she explored the idea of burning solid waste from the landfill to create energy: Turning garbage into something useful.
“My goal was to build a lab-quality calorimeter to calculate not only the potential energy, but I was also able to reduce the amount of materials heading into the landfill annually,” said Hayko.
A calorimeter measures the energy created when garbage is burned which can then be used for power.
The project earned her top awards at her local and regional science fairs. This weekend it will compete against 400 other projects at the 56th Canada-Wide Science Fair, Canada’s largest youth science competition. All the projects aim to provide solutions to local, regional, or global concerns like climate change and food security.
According to Hayko’s data, almost one million tons of garbage went into the city’s landfill in 2016. By taking the solid waste that is safe to burn, she calculated that it could produce 556,070 megawatts of power, which is enough to power 637,000 lightbulbs, 24-hours a day for a full year.