BOB HIRSHON (host):
From shrimp to plastic. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Plastic waste can take decades or longer to break down, leaching toxic chemicals the whole time. But a new plastic, made from shrimp shells, degrades safely in as little as two weeks. It’s being developed at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. According to founding director Don Ingber, lead researcher Javier Fernandez was able to injection-mold the plastic into shapes like chess pieces and egg cartons.
DON INGBER (Wyss Institute, Harvard University):
We literally took one of those clear plastic egg cartons that you may see in the supermarket, and he used that as a mold, and he made one out of this chitosan shrimp shell based plastic.
That suggests it could be more versatile than existing biodegradable plastics. What’s more, Ingber says the degraded chitosan acts as a fertilizer – so composting it would actually be beneficial. The next step is to partner with manufacturers, to try and produce the new plastics on an industrial scale. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.