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Dig This: Biodegradation

3.8 based on 12 ratings

Updated on Nov 13, 2012


Earth Science

Grade Level


Difficulty Level




Safety Issues

People with soil allergies should probably avoid this one.

Project Time Frame

6-10 weeks


This project explores the process of biodegradation.

Project Goals
  • To examine the ways in which different materials decompose underground.
  • To encourage the development of new and improved biodegradable products.

Materials and Equipment

  • Computer with internet access.
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Digital camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Microscope (optional)
  • Typical office/craft supplies (such as paper, pens & poster-board)


Biodegradation is the disintegration (chemical breakdown) of organic materials, due to prolonged exposure to earth’s natural elements. There are several different ways to measure this process. One of these ways is by simple observation.

Research Questions
  • What does it mean to be biodegradable?
  • How is biodegradation measured?
  • What are the effects of nature on various materials buried in earth?
  • How can we predict a material’s biodegradability?
Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research


Experimental Procedure

  1. Read overviews of related concepts (see bibliography)
  2. Collect 10 or 20 small, unwanted items of different types. Foods, fabrics, plastics, leaves, packaging materials… Use your imagination when selecting these items.
  3. Photograph each item individually.
  4. Bury each item separately in the same type of soil, with at least six inches of dirt on top.
  5. Mark each spot with a sign describing what is buried there.
  6. Once a week, unearth each item, analyze it, photograph it, and rebury it.
  7. Continue doing this every week for 5-8 weeks.
  8. Interpret results in a detailed report.
  9. Show results visually using photos taken throughout the course of the experiment.
  10. Include the remains of each item in your science fair display.

Wiki article: “Biodegradable

Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials.  Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.