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Scientists Create Eco-friendly Plastic from Salmon Sperm

salmon sperm
Scientists have now created a biodegradable cup out of salmon sperm. Credit: The Journal of the American Chemical Society

Chinese scientists announced on Wednesday that they have created a biodegradable form of plastic using salmon sperm.

The team isolated two strands of DNA from the fishes’ sperm and synthesized it with a chemical found in vegetable oil that was capable of bonding the two strands together. The material produced is called hydrogel.

The gel can be transformed into different three-dimensional shapes and freeze-dried into a solid form. The scientists made a cup, puzzle pieces, and a DNA molecule as their first tests with the material.

DNA was the true building block of the team’s invention, which means that more scientists could extract the genetic code of a variety of different living things — not just salmon sperm — to create eco-friendly materials in the future.

Plastic poses one of the most urgent problems in the fight against the climate crisis, as it is composed of petrochemicals whose creation involves toxic substances. It is almost completely non-biodegradable, taking hundreds of years to fully break down — and thus ends up being burned or polluting the planet.

Greece bans single-use plastics

In July, ten types of single-use plastic products were banned in Greece. This list includes cutlery, plates, straws, styrofoam containers and cups, beverage stirrers, and cotton swabs, as well as all types of products that decompose into microplastics.

The aim of these bans is to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic cups and food containers. The government has set out two main goals of reducing usage by 30% by the year 2024 and by 60% by the year 2026.

There is also a plan to decrease the use of plastic water bottles by 2024.

Of course, the ban does not mean that Greeks won’t have access to convenient and on-the-go cutlery and straws; instead, the ban is likely to cause companies to innovate and come up with more environmentally sound solutions.

These could take the form of cardboard straws and plates or even biodegradable plastic-style alternatives.

Not the first plastic ban

Greece has been making an effort to be kinder to the environment for a few years now, using similar techniques. In 2018, the country followed an EU request to make it a law for stores to charge for disposable plastic bags.

The law seems to have been extremely successful in deterring people from using the bags – use of plastic bags in supermarkets in Greece dropped 80 percent in the first year that the law was in place, 2018, since stores no longer gave them away for free. The survey conducted by the Research Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA) showed the drastic improvement in terms of plastic bag usage.

The environmental protection measure which came into force on January 1st, 2018 has resulted in an enormous reduction in the use of plastic bags. Based on 2017 figures, the change experienced in only a single year resulted in 1.5 billion fewer plastic bags being used in Greece.

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