Plastics are very useful materials. They’ve contributed significant benefits to modern society. But the unprecedented amount of plastics produced over the past few decades has caused serious environmental pollution.
Packaging alone was responsible for 46% out of 340 million tonnes of plastic waste generated globally in 2018. Although plastic recycling has increased significantly in recent years, most plastics used today are single use, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable.
The demand for food will double by 2050. This will probably increase the amount of waste from food and its plastic packaging, putting poorer countries under tremendous pressure to manage waste disposal.
To tackle the issues of environmental damage, we need more sustainable materials that we can recycle or that biodegrade. There’s been a surge in plant-based plastics, but many of these can only be composted using industrial processes, not by people at home.
Now researchers at the University of Cambridge have found a way to make plastic from abundant and sustainable plant proteins. Inspired by spider silk, the film works in a way similar to other plastics, but it can be composted at home.
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