Plastic really helps. Some would even say that it is inevitable. But it has a big negative impact on our planet.
Take for example the Large Pacific Garbage Zone, an oceanic accumulation of trash so large it’s often called a trash island. The area is twice the size of Texas and it is considered the largest ocean plastic area in the world. It is estimated to contain a whopping 1.8 trillion pieces of debris that just aren’t biodegradable.
Indeed, plastic does not biodegrade easily and the sources from which it comes are also problematic because the traditional method of producing polyurethanes is very toxic and polluting. But what if we could make green plastic from parts of fish that nobody wants?
Researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland (Canada) have designed what they say “should be a safer, biodegradable alternative” to making plastics derived from fish waste – heads, bones, skin and intestines – that would otherwise likely be thrown away and become more waste. Better yet, these plastics would be biodegradable.
“It’s important that we start designing plastics with an end-of-life plan, whether it’s chemical degradation that turns the material into carbon dioxide and water, or recycling and reuse,” Francesca Kerton, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, said in a statement.
The new material was initially made with oil extracted from the scraps of Atlantic salmon, scraps that were about to be discarded. Kerton and his team developed a process to convert this fish oil into a polyurethane-like polymer by adding oxygen to the unsaturated oil.
The only question everyone is concerned about is whether the end result smells fishy. Kerton said in his statement that as the oil went through several phases to become plastic, the fishy smell eventually faded.
“I find it interesting to see how we can make something useful, something that might even change the way plastics are made, from the waste that people just throw away,” said Mikhailey Wheeler, a graduate student involved. In work.
Wheeler also tweaked the method of making plastic from fish oil to make it more reliable and biodegradable.