Environment

Biodegradable plastic made from fisheries waste

Biodegradable plastic made fro...
A sample of the bioplastic, which reportedly does not have a "fishy smell"
A sample of the bioplastic, which reportedly does not have a "fishy smell"
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A sample of the bioplastic, which reportedly does not have a "fishy smell"
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A sample of the bioplastic, which reportedly does not have a "fishy smell"

Like most other commonly used types of plastic, polyurethane is typically made from non-renewable crude oil, and it takes centuries to break down when discarded. Now, however, scientists have created a biodegradable polyurethane-like polymer using fish waste.

Led by Prof. Francesca Kerton, a team at Canada's Memorial University of Newfoundland started with the heads, bones, skin and guts of farmed Atlantic salmon, after the fish had been filleted for seafood sales. Usually, such remains would either be composted or simply thrown away.

The scientists proceeded to extract fish oil from the waste, then added oxygen to that oil in order to create epoxide molecules, which are similar to those found in epoxy resin. Carbon dioxide was then used to link those molecules together, with some help from cashew-shell-derived nitrogen-containing compounds known as amines.

The resulting bioplastic was shown to start biodegrading soon after being immersed in water to which the enzyme lipase had been added – lipase breaks down fats such as those found in fish oil. Even when soaked in plain water, the plastic still quickly began showing signs of microbial growth which should lead to degradation.

Additionally, early tests indicate that the cashew-shell amines used in the production process could be replaced with more readily available, naturally occurring amino acids like histidine and asparagine.

"I find it interesting how we can make something useful, something that could even change the way plastics are made, from the garbage that people just throw out," says graduate student Mikhailey Wheeler, who is working with Kerton.

The research will be presented later this month via the online spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Source: American Chemical Society via EurekAlert

2 comments
Username
There is still an overabundance of non-recyclable plastic being used in general packaging and the food industry and that is unacceptable. Until the government becomes proactive and legislates the use and production of all plastics ( not just low hanging forks and such) This type of product will never see the light of day.
Simon Blake
I agree with Username. There needs to be legislation introduced to force a change which would inevitably lead to economies of scale and the better alternatives become cost comparable (not that that should be a necessary requirement). I subscribe to a UK magazine that comes in a 'plastic' bag made of potato starch that can be placed in the garden compost. Whilst we don't want the ethanol problem repeated (food crops being diverted to ethanol production) there should be maximum effort being placed on the basics of repurposing waste.