This 'fishy' plastic is a solution to a huge problem
Image: Wyss Institute

Look around you. Count all the objects that are made out of plastic. Most of them will end up buried in landfills – and some will take up to 1,000 years to degrade.

Chitosan, a form of chitin, is a polysaccharide found in the shells of shrimps and some insects. Chitin from shrimp shells is usually discarded or used in fertilisers, but researchers at the Wyss Institute have used a novel method to transform it into a bioplastic that is cheap and easy to make.

The chitosan bioplastic can be used to make 3D objects, such as plastic cups, cutlery and even diapers, using traditional casting or injection-moulding, explained the researchers in a news release. Best part: the material breaks down just a few weeks after being discarded, becoming a nutrient-rich fertiliser.

“There is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced,” Wyss Director Donald E. Ingber said. “Our scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bioplastic that could potentially be used instead of conventional plastics for numerous industrial applications.”

Every year we produce about 300 million tons of plastic per year and recycle just 3 percent. This bioplastic can change it forever.