Plastic is widely used in our society. Plastic has become a common feature of our daily lives, from carry bags and bottles to packaging and wrapping products. Plastic has posed a serious problem for our environment over the years. Tons of plastic are used and discarded carelessly, ending up in the ocean, seas, and several landfills. Because plastic is made from petrochemicals, it requires a lot of heat and toxic substances to produce, which contributes to environmental pollution. Let’s not forget that plastic takes centuries to degrade and that only a small percentage of it is recycled.
Scientists at China’s Tianjin University have developed an eco-friendly plastic alternative using salmon sperm and vegetable oil in an effort to reduce, if not eliminate, plastic pollution. The scientists created a material called ‘hydrogel,’ which is composed of two DNA strands from salmon sperm combined with a chemical found in vegetable oil to create a strong manufacturing material. So far, this game-changing technology has been used to create a teacup, a puzzle, and a DNA structure. According to the researchers, it emits 97% less carbon than traditional plastics.
For decades, scientists and environmentalists around the world have conducted extensive research on plastic recycling. There are biodegradable plastics made from cornstarch and algae. These, however, require a lot of energy and can be difficult to recycle. However, scientists at a Chinese university claim that eco-friendly plastic made of hydrogel is simple to recycle. Dip it in water, and the enzymes in the salmon DNA will convert it back into a gel that can be reused to make other alternatives.
There is, however, one issue. The material must be kept completely dry and free of moisture, or else the salmon sperm cup will be rendered useless. Nonetheless, the material can be used to make carry bags, package covers, and other items that will not be exposed to water or moisture.
According to estimates, the world produces approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic per year. The vast majority of these are not recycled, and over time, they degrade into microplastics that end up in the ocean, fish, birds, food chains, and, eventually, humans. With this invention, the question is whether this is the solution the world has been looking for to end the harmful single-use of plastic.