Ever heard of tardigrades? They’re cute microscopic “water bears” that will live long after humans are extinct. Microplastics, tiny, water-insoluble demons, are like their evil twins: invisible objects that pollute every crevice of the earth, from the depths of the Earth’s oceans to the salt we sprinkle in our food. Like tardigrades, they’re going to last a longtime - way longer than we’d like them to.
In the search for sustainable plastic alternatives, a research intern from the Institute of Biological Chemistry at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan found a new biodegradable material. Denxybel Montinola, who hails from Cebu, Philippines, engineered a bioplastic using bio-polymers known as pectin and carrageenan, which come from mango peels and seaweed respectively.
Part of the reason Montinola used mango peels and seaweed is due to their abundance. Mangoes and seaweed are two of the top ten Philippine exports. Perhaps in the future this bioplastic could join the fold as one of Philippines’ greatest contributions to the world?
Not only is Montinola’s alternative sustainable, it’s also better than the plastics we currently use. For one, it’s completely water-soluble, which means it will completely dissolve in water and won’t degrade into tiny plastic particles. So there’s a decreased likelihood of getting a dash of microplastics in your next meal.
Second, it’s robust enough to mimic the motions of our body. “Not only we can make a bioplastic out of it, but we can also create a tissue scaffold that protects the burned area of our skin for example, or stop local bleeding,” Montinola told Cebu Daily News.
Montinola’s ingenious invention makes us think: who would’ve thought that mango and seaweed would make such a winning combination?