Teen Invents Biodegradable “Plastic” That Decomposes in 33 Days Using Prawn Shells and Silk Cocoon Protein

Plastic had been the biggest breakthrough in the last century replacing so many products making our lives comfortable and easy. But, after a century of over-exploiting this synthetic material we have come to a point of drowning ourselves in plastic. We use so many single-use plastic items that are extensively polluting our environment, our oceans, marine life, and so on.

Many people have become aware of this, but the best thing about this awareness is when young people are trying to make a change like Angelina Arora, 17, an Australian teenager.

She has come up with a solution of solving the plastic issue in the whole world, a compostable plastic made of prawn shells. Her invention can make a change as the plastic that she has created decomposes within a month (33 days). Moreover, the product that she has created is flexible, durable, insoluble, versatile, and cheap.

Arora won the BHP Science and Engineering Award and got the title, the Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year.

Several companies got interested in Angelina’s invention, and we hope that very soon we can see her product available for commercial use.

Angelina is a medical student that got inspired when she saw her parents buying plastic items, knowing the fact that this material is number one pollutant on our planet. Therefore, she started to do some experiments how to create an eco-plastic, and in the beginning she tried with banana peels and cornstarch.

But, the first experiments were not successful as the solubility was an issue. Like any other inventor the idea came out unexpectedly while having a dinner. She was having prawns noticing that the shells have a plastic texture, and that triggered her to make some research.

In her experiment she extracted carbohydrate chitin from the shell and converted it into chitosan by using chemicals. The chitosan was combined with fibroin, an insoluble protein from silkworms. The perfect formula for her plastic was created, a protein from a silk cocoon and an element from prawn shells. She tested her creation as medical packaging.

Angelina explains the process of her creation:

“For a school science project, I made a plastic bag out of corn-starch, but it didn’t work because it was soluble in water, which would mean we’d have our groceries end up on the floor and it would also mean taking away precious food sources.”

She continues:

“That’s when I was at the fish and chip shop getting prawns for dinner and noticed that the prawn shells looked like plastic. I went back to the lab and thought about what exactly made them look like that.”

Angelina’s invention is a great incentive in replacing plastic with biogradable products and it is very promising for us and the whole planet that young people are more willing to participate in protecting it. They are offering some new ideas that could be of great assistance in protecting the environment.

 According to the results of YouGov study, commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council, young people are very interested in protecting nature and marine life. In this study were observed 1000 young people in the age range of 18 to 24 and each one of them showed great concern about the oceans, the land and environment.

Anne Gabriel of Marine Stewardship Council states that the oceans are the only source of wild food we have at the moment, and because of that we need to keep it safe.