Shellworks, an initiative by four design students from The Royal College of Art and Imperial College, have managed to turn lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastic. The goal is to create a sustainable replacement for single-use plastics, and since this malleable bioplastic is extremely versatile, it can easily be adjusted in thickness, transparency, flexibility and stiffness to create various objects. The main ingredient in this bioplastic is chitlin, the second most abundant biopolymer in the world, which is naturally found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. Read more for another video, additional pictures and information.
Instead of buying pricey chitlin, the team hand-built a custom small-scale extractor as well as three custom manufacturing machines: a heated dip molder to create 3D forms, called Dippy; the Vaccy, a steam-heated vacuum former for manufacturing molded packaging; and then Sheety, a sheet-forming device for making controlled flat sheets. So far, they have created antibacterial blister packaging and even self-fertilizing plant pots.
“Since the beginning, product recyclability has stayed at the forefront of Shellworks’ design objectives. Thus, the team steered clear of additives during experimentation and discovered that they could manipulate the bioplastic’s properties by adjusting the ratios of the base ingredients. The highly versatile and recyclable material can be easily turned from a solid back to the original bioplastic solution or used as a natural, non-polluting fertilizer at the end of its lifecycle,” according to Inhabitat.