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An ecological alternative to plastic
By Carmen Loren
Most people are aware that plastic rubbish is a very serious problem on a global scale. Fortunately, the scientific community has long been working to find the perfect alternative to conventional plastics that are made from fossil fuels. A promising new material has been created by researchers at Harvard University (US), and they call it ‘Shrilk’. It is made from chitosan, which is a component present in the shells of many crustaceans and insects, that has amazing resistance and flexibility. These characteristics make Shrilk a real alternative to plastic, and its creators say that it is also twice as strong as conventional plastic.
Perhaps the most important feature of Shrilk is that it is completely biodegradable. It can disappear in as little as two weeks when composted, and it releases natural fertilizer for the growth of plants as it decomposes. Another great advantage is that chitosan is very inexpensive as it has traditionally been a waste product from the fishing industry. In fact, it exists in abundance throughout nature, and is the second most abundant organic material on Earth after cellulose. Shrilk’s creators claim that it can be used for large scale industrial applications such as the manufacture of bags, mobile phones, packaging and bottles, plus printing objects in 3D.