The planet has been suffering for the effects of excess plastic usage for quite some time now. As we try to reduce the use of plastics, a teenager from Australia has invented a great alternative to tradition plastics – a “plastic” made from prawn shells.
Aneline Aroro produced a compostable plastic by mixing a protein from a silk cocoon and an element from prawn shells, and it decomposes in just 33 days. It will be quite cheap to make and can be used for multiple purposes.
Her efforts have won her a BHP Science and Engineering Award and she was also named the Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year.
Angelina was initially inspired to create this after seeing her parents having to pay for plastic at stores. When she found out the reason for this is because plastic bags are harmful to the environment, she wanted to make a cheap, biodegradable substitute.
She decided to enroll in the science field and learn more. In her first experiments she tried to make the plastic using banana peels and cornstarch, but solubility became an issue.
While having dinner she noticed that prawn shells had a plastic texture to them so that became the basis of the plan that would result in the final product.
She researched the shell and was able to extract carbohydrate chitin from it. Using chemicals she was able to transform the carbohydrates into chitosan. She then mixed the chitosan with fibroin, an insoluble protein found in silkworms.
And that was the winning formula which became the compostable plastic that is durable and composts within 33 days.
She is in the final stages of acquiring a patent for her compostable plastic and hopes it should soon be ready for commercial distribution.
Many companies have already shown an interest in this as it is insoluble, flexible, and durable, which are the main qualities that make plastic desirable.