Tag Archives: chitosan

Can shrimp shells solve our huge plastic waste problem?

English: A heap of Pandalus borealis shrimp. O...

English: A heap of Pandalus borealis shrimp. Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here. 2005-03-09 (original upload date) Original uploader was Stemonitis at en.wikipedia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a moldable, sturdy, biodegradable substitute for the billions of pounds of plastics we dump into our oceans and rivers and on the ground. Scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have been working on developing just such a substance.

Their search may be yielding results. They report being able to do what they imagined with a substance called “chitosan, a form of chitin…a powerful player in the world of natural polymers and the second most abundant organic material on Earth. Chitin is a long-chain polysaccharide that is responsible for the hardy shells of shrimps and other crustaceans, armor-like insect cuticles, tough fungal cell walls — and flexible butterfly wings.”

They’ve been combining the chitosan with a protein from silk to make a pliable material that can be molded without breaking or shrinking. What’s more, it biodegrades in about two weeks, while also adding nutrients to the soil and helping plants – like the Institute’s black-eyed peas – grow in the enriched soil.

Fabulous news: recycling the Earth’s own resources to do what human civilization wants to accomplish – and not leaving more deadly waste. Can’t wait til they get this going.