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Paper, plastic or shrimp? This innovative product might be the future

Kelli Uhrich oversees the Home, Living, Pets and Holidays coverage on SheKnows.com. She is an Arizona native with the classic "small town girl moves to the big city" story, and has lived in the Phoenix-metro area since 2003. Professio...

A tiny solution for a big problem

After watching this video, I took inventory of my desk, finding 27 items made with some type of plastic. From the casing of my laptop to the bottle of SmartWater that I drink from, it became clear that this material is beloved by manufacturers. But what you won't see when taking inventory of the plastics around you are the places they'll ultimately wind up: our landfills and our oceans. Because of this, wouldn't be great if there were an alternate option that was actually good for the environment? Surprisingly, researchers believe that the answer may lie in shrimp.
Empty plastic bottle on the beach
Photo credit: PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty images

According to this video, "We produce 300 million tons of plastic per year, and recycle only three percent." These shocking numbers, and the resulting problems they cause, are what ultimately led researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to look for a solution. As a result, they have recently identified a new bioplastic that comes from shrimp shells, of all places. Shrilk, as it's being called, is made from chitosan, a form of chitin, which is an organic material found in these shells. And not only is shrilk abundant and sustainable, the final product is biodegradable. Within a few weeks of being tossed out, the material breaks down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps with plant growth. Amazing.

Watch this video to learn more about this breakthrough product, then imagine what the cell phones, computers and manufactured packaging of the future might look like. And then, imagine what our oceans and landfills will look like, too.

More on sustainability

Going green: How five companies are pitching in
4 Millennials who have given up riches for farming
Is buying local better for the environment?

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