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Biraj Saha

North Dakota State University, PhD Civil Engineering

EREF Scholar 2023

Microplastics and PFAS are persistent pollutants, presenting significant risks to both human health and the environment. One of the primary routes through which microplastics enter the environment is via solid waste. In our preliminary research, we observed a significant amount of plastics in yard waste compost degrading into microplastics during the composting process. Compounding the problem, PFAS is omnipresent in our environment due to its historical unrestricted use in everyday products and careless disposal methods. The concern intensifies when considering the presence of microplastics and PFAS in yard waste compost. Typically perceived as the purest form of compost, yard waste compost is widely used in many households for gardening. Our research objectives are threefold: 1. Examine the physicochemical degradation of plastics within yard waste compost. 2. Explore the occurrence and potential pathways of PFAS within this compost. 3. Formulate and implement strategies to minimize the presence of both microplastics and PFAS in yard waste compost. In the initial phase of the project, we will conduct a detailed analysis of mature compost sourced from Fargo, North Dakota’s yard waste compost facility. This will aid in discerning the extent and nature of microplastic and PFAS contamination. Subsequent investigations will delve into the physicochemical degradation patterns of plastics, linking the breakdown processes to compost maturity and temperature variations. Our study will also scrutinize potential PFAS pathways in yard waste compost by examining various waste fractions. To understand the influence of atmospheric PFAS deposition, we’ll conduct air sampling at the compost site using pumps and sorbent tubes. To curtail the influx of these pollutants, we’ll introduce an educational leaflet on microplastics and PFAS, targeting those who dispose of yard waste. Our research will lay the groundwork for future legislation against the indiscriminate disposal of plastic and PFAS containing waste in yard waste compost sites.

Biography:

Biraj Saha is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at North Dakota State University, with an expected graduation in June 2026. Under the mentorship of Dr. Syeed Md Iskander, a distinguished 2016 EREF scholar, Biraj delves into the complexities of microplastics and PFAS within solid waste management processes, aiming to understand their occurrence and devise effective treatments. Born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Biraj’s academic journey commenced at Dhaka University. There, he acquired his B.S. in Leather Products Engineering in 2018, followed by an M.S. in Leather Engineering in 2020. It was during his master’s program, specifically during his industrial training at a tannery, that Biraj’s passion for environmental engineering ignited. Witnessing firsthand the grievous pollution caused by the tanneries’ release of vast amounts of improperly treated solid waste, he became driven to address and rectify such environmental challenges. Beyond academics and research, Biraj’s commitment to positive change is further demonstrated by his service to the community. He dedicated four years to the Youth Against Hunger organization, an affiliate of Hunger Free World, Japan. From 2015 to 2017, he also held the esteemed position of the