We drown in plastic. It’s everywhere. In our waters. In our soil. An Australian teenager was fed up with this and decided to make a change.
Angelina Arora, 17, made the first compostable plastic using prawn shells. It’s an amazing invention, and this may be the solution we’ve been looking for. Angelina’s plastic decomposes within a month (33 days). The teen won the BHP Science and Engineering Award and was named the Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year.
Angelina has contacted several companies, and they were all interested in her invention. Hopefully, her product will be available for commercial use in the near future.
The product is cheap, versatile, insoluble, flexible and durable. What else can you ask for? Angelina made her plastic using a protein from a silk cocoon and an element from prawn shells. She tested it out as medical packaging.
The medical student found true inspiration after seeing her parents pay for plastic at local stores. Plastic destroys our planet, and Angelina wanted to do something about this. She did several experiments. In the first experiment, she used banana peels and cornstarch.
However, solubility was an issue. One day, the idea clicked. Angelina was having prawns for dinner, and she noticed that the shells have a plastic texture.
She did a research and first extracted carbohydrate chitin from the shell. Angelina turned carbs into chitosan using chemicals. The chitosan was then combined with fibroin. It’s an insoluble protein from silkworms. That was the perfect formula!
“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,” Angelina says.
“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 may have a huge impact on our technology. We are always interested in new ideas.
A YouGov study, commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council, observed 1000 young people aged between 18 and 24. These people were the most concerned about marine life and our environment. Anne Gabriel of Marine Stewardship Council explains that oceans are the only source of wild food we have at the moment. We better keep it safe.
We need more people like young Angelina. She is our hero, and her invention may save the world. Biodegradable plastic is a must. We need to use it and ditch all the plastic that has been poisoning our lands and waters.