The 21-Year-Old Argentinian Inventor Putting an End to Plastic Pollution

Jerónimo Bucher has debated climate change with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and been selected by Harvard and MIT as one of the world’s 100 Leaders of the Future.

28.06.2019 | by Christy Romer
Screengrab from interview with Fantino
Screengrab from interview with Fantino

Jerónimo Batista Bucher is many things — scientist, inventor, debater of world leaders and the first ever Argentinian to be selected as one of Harvard and MIT’s 100 future leaders to watch.

He’s also just 21 years old. In such a short space of time, Bucher has become something of a national celebrity, frequently appearing on talk shows and in newspaper interviews to raise the profile of sustainable technology and the damage caused by a reckless use of plastic.

It all started with a seaweed cup. Three years ago, while still a high school student in Buenos Aires, Bucher created a prototype machine that could turn seaweed extract into biodegradable cups. The idea, which he called ‘Sorui,’ earned accolades from various departments of the Argentine Government and several high-level industry bodies. He created a startup, Henko, to scale up development of the machine, which now has a home in Bucher’s own lab at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín.

“In Argentina we use more than one thousand million disposable plastic cups every year,” Bucher explained in an interview with Todo Noticias. “If you think about this on a global scale, the numbers are enormous.

“Because of this, I worked out how to create an ecological alternative. We’ve created a machine that instead of making cups that take hundreds of years to break down, creates cups that can be used for any drink and degrade in at most a couple of weeks.”

It was because of Sorui that he was chosen to represent Argentina at the G20 global youth summit in 2017, as a member of the Environment and Climate Change Committee. Bucher was then selected to deliver a speech on behalf of the committee in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sorui also led to the distinction from Harvard and MIT. Earlier this month, Bucher travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, to participate in debates alongside the other 100 Leaders of the future and former Nobel Prize winners.

Speaking to La Nación, Bucher said that he started participating in science fairs on a national and international level at 11 years old, allowing him to delve deeply into the topics that interested him. A year before creating Souri, he earned a certificate from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausann for Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries, and since 2017, he has been a Citizen Leader as part of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.

All of which may be the motivation behind the Argentinian’s other major project, Maieutics. The platform hopes to broaden young people’s horizons through personal and professional development opportunities around the world, offering chances to participate in the Google Science Fair or in astronomy, geography, maths or physics boot camps — places to have life-changing experiences and meet similarly inspired individuals.

Bucher speaks regularly about sustainability and entrepreneurship across Argentina, and even recently in Peru. He will continue his studies in biotechnology until 2022.

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