WORDS Cheri Morris
London-based design studio The Shellworks is working on turning leftover crustacean shells into a bioplastic that could replace single-use plastic.
While looking into the food waste issue, masters students Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Andrew Edwards came across chitin, the structural biopolymer found in the shells of crustaceans, some insects and the cell walls of fungi. They realised that staggering amounts of chitin (the world’s second most abundant biopolymer) are disposed of by the restaurant industry each year and began thinking of ways to use this wasted resource.
They collect their raw material from London’s famous restaurant chain Burger & Lobster before processing the shells through a series of specially designed machines that extract, form and recycle the material. Before they created their own machines, they spent weeks trying to extract just a handful of chitosan (the sugar found in the shell). That’s when they knew they needed to come up with the right tools for the job – and so Vaccy, Sheety and Dippy were created.
The resulting bioplastic creations include biodegradable plant pots that are self-fertilising, anti-bacterial blister packaging and food-safe carrier bags. The London-based designers say, “By designing scalable manufacturing processes, applications tailored to the material, and eco-positive waste streams, we believe we can demonstrate how chitosan bioplastic could become a viable alternative for many of the plastic products we use today.”
Watch how they do it:
While their products aren’t for sale yet, they’re always looking for crustacean-waste donors and innovators to work with. If you’re either, get in touch with them here.