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

In today’s day and age, there is an outstanding amount of plastic everywhere. From our waters to our soil, we see plastic. We are drowning in it. Being fed up regarding this matter, this Australian teenager decided that she needed to make a change.

17-year-old Angelina Arora used prawn shells to make the world’s first plastic, which is biodegradable. This fantastic invention may well be the solution we need. This ingenious creation will decompose in just over a month. Thirty-three days, to be exact. Being named the Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year, Angelina also won the BHP Science and Engineering Award.

The 17-year-old contacted several leading companies and all these companies showed interest in her invention, so there’s hope that this will be available commercially. Wouldn’t it be great if we could start using this durable, insoluble, cheap, flexible, and versatile product? Developed using an element from prawn shells, and a protein from a silk cocoon, the teen initially tested this as medical packaging.

As plastic continues to destroy our planet, this 17-year-old was driven to do something about it, and finally, she found her inspiration when she noticed her parents pay for plastic at local stores. Angelina went on to do several experiments, starting with using cornstarch and banana peels for her first experiment. By the by, the solubility of the ingredients she was using created an issue, and then, one day, as she had prawns for dinner, it clicked. She noticed that the prawn shells had a plastic-like texture, so she thought of using them in her experiment.

After doing a vast amount of research, Angelina first extracted the carbohydrate chitin from the prawn shells. Once the extraction was completed, she then used chemicals and turned the carbohydrates into chitosan. Then she created the perfect formula by combining the chitosan with fibroin, an insoluble protein you get from silkworms.

When asked about her invention, Angelina said that “For a school science project, I made a plastic bag out of cornstarch, 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 valuable food sources. 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.”

Young people and the new generation have great and new ideas, and they possibly have a significant impact on technology. A study done by the Marine Stewardship Council, and done by YouGov, have taken a sample of 1000 youngsters between the ages of 18 and 24. Within the interests of these selected youngsters, they showed most concern regarding the environment and marine life. Marine Stewardship Council member Anne Gabriel went on to explain that at the moment, the only source of wild food we have is the oceans. Therefore, we must keep it safe.

Angelina is a hero. Her invention may be the tool we need to save the world, and that’s why we need more people like her. In the future, compostable plastic will be a huge must. This will stop the poisoning done to our waters and land by non-biodegradable plastic.