London designers establish “Shellworks” to convert seafood waste into bioplastic

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In London, four designers at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College have invented a process to convert lobster and crab shells into bioplastics.

Dubbed Shellworks, the material is a mixture of chitin extracted from shells and vinegar. The inventors—Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Andrew Edwards—set out to do the chemical extraction themselves after learning how expensive commercially available chitin was.

“We spent weeks trying to extract even a handful of chitosan, which was when we realized we needed the right tools for the job,” the group tells Dezeen. Shellworks consists of five machines—Shelly, Sheety, Vaccy, Dippy and Drippy—which converts the shells into flat sheets that  can be molded into packaging. The material can also be used in liquid form as fertilizer.

“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,” the inventors add.