Lobsters prove to be more valuable off the plate
One of the greatest challenges for designers, scientists and engineers is the quest to find new materials in place of single use plastics which continue to threaten the future of planet.
With the UK currently enjoying the hottest February days on record – not that we don’t love the idea of putting a t-shirt on and eating an ice cream in the middle of winter – plastics are just another contributor to global warming which is causing havoc in the natural world.
With this in mind, it’s time to get creative! And what better way to try and minimise the use of plastics than by finding ways to recycle natural food waste in place of them?
New research which has come out of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College has seen the development of a series of machines which are able to turn excess seafood into biodegradable and recyclable bioplastic – with the hope that one day this new method could replace plastics which are so harmful to the environment.
The material, developed by designers behind the aptly named project Shellworks, is made by mixing vinegar with a biopolymer named chitin made up from the exoskeleton of crustaceans (like lobsters) and cell walls of fungi.
However the process of extracting and moulding the biopolymer is a complicated one, leading the team to invent five difference machines which are all able to cast and manipulate the material differently. The machines, affectionately named Shelly, Sheety, Vaccy, Dippy and Drippy, transform the shells into different items, whilst ensuring that the final products are fully recyclable.
"By designing scalable manufacturing processes, applications tailored to the material, and eco-positive waste streams, we believe we can demonstrate how chitosan bioplastic could become a viable alternative for many of the plastic products we use today," Shellworks said.