Marcel Beukman won awards for experimenting with grey water.
Marcel Beukman won awards for experimenting with grey water.

Matric’s grey water project wins top awards

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Sep 26, 2020

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Durban - Drought. Food prices. Food quality. There’s a solution to these problems that comes straight out of the washing machine.

Richards Bay matric pupil Marcel Beukman discovered this from a Grade 12 school project that has won him prestigious awards.

He experimented with ratios of grey water by diluting it to various levels and watering three different veggies: green peppers, beans and mealies.

Each of these plant types thrived by being irrigated by a dose of 40% grey water and the balance, clean water.

“If everyone just realised that this is so viable, it could make an impact and alleviate our water shortage,” said the 17-year-old who plans to study medicine after he matriculates at Grantleigh College, near his home town.

“It’s simple, anybody can do it.”

Beukman said thanks to the presence of washing powder, his grey water had nitrates and phosphates, which provided nutrients for his plants.

However, too much was not a good idea: 100% grey water proved the worst dose, killing the plants after 15 days.

“Forty percent provided enough nutrients for plant growth without having a negative impact.”

Beukman said he kept records of each plant over 30-day periods and covered them when it rained to prevent rainwater from interfering with his experiments.

He had initially chosen green peppers because they grew quickly, and then mealies and beans because they represented foods that are staples.

His interest in medicine runs parallel with healthy eating.

“Obviously, a balanced diet is an important part of daily life,” Beukman said, adding that it would help if people could garden food sustainably and for good yields.

His interest in the topic was kindled by an internal school project he started last year, in Grade 11, which made its way to the Eskom Regional Science Fair and the Eskom Expo International Science Fair where he won gold medals. That qualified him to attend a science fair in Kenya that was cancelled because of Covid-19.

However, in the time of Covid-19, he cracked a silver medal at this year’s virtual Africa Science Buskers Festival.

It attracted 175 entries from around the world, including from Brazil, Indonesia, Nepal, Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tunisia and the US, according to an Eskom Expo press release.

The Independent on Saturday

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