The Shellworks designers’ collective recycles seafood shells to make bioplastic bags. A great alternative to single-use plastic bags.
One of several machines it has developed, the team uses its Shelly extractor to extract the chitin from the crushed seafood shells.Every year, 500 billion plastic bags are used around the world, often for a very short time. But that doesn’t mean their long-term effect is any less disastrous for the environment. Some of these bags end up in the oceans creating “plastic soups” and suffocating the marine life.
To combat the use of single-use plastic bags, the British collective The Shellworks has made recyclable and compostable bioplastic from... lobster shells! The secret lies in the chitin, the main constituent of the shells of crustaceans, but also - after cellulose - the second most abundant biopolymer (a molecular substance produced by plants, algae, animals, etc.) on Earth.
In practice, lobster shells are collected from London restaurants and then crushed on the collective’s premises. Then using one of several machines it has developed, the team uses its Shelly extractor to extract the chitin from the crushed shells. The resulting fine white powder is then mixed with household vinegar to make liquid bioplastic.
To shape the bioplastic for use in bags and objects, The Shellworks has developed two devices. The Dippy molds rigid objects: flowerpots, containers, cups, etc. The Sheety is used to make translucent sheets of bioplastic by evaporation. To make a bag, these sheets just have to be stuck together using liquid bioplastic. At the end of their lives bioplastic objects can be composted or recycled to make new objects.
The Shellworks is still in the testing phase, but hopes that its invention can be replicated on a large scale in the years to come. An amazing way of reducing the use of plastic at the same time as recycling organic waste. When it comes to plastic, there is no limit to their imagination!
CREDITS: pictures @The Shellworks