#FactFriday: Making eco-friendly plastics from salmon sperm

salmon sperm - cleanbuild

#FactFriday: Making eco-friendly plastics from salmon sperm

Hello readers.

Welcome to #FactFriday on CleanbuildVoices!

Here’s a jaw-dropping fact for you to ponder over the weekend: Salmon sperm can be used to make eco-friendly plastics.

Some might think this is a bit cringeworthy, but we celebrate any discovery that can help tackle plastic pollution while providing a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.

In today’s edition of #FactFriday, we will share a brilliant invention made by Chinese scientists from Tianjin University.

These researchers have created a cup from an unlikely ingredient- the sperm of a fish known as salmon. They extracted two short strands of DNA from the fish’s testes and mixed it with vegetable oil to produce a squishy, jelly-like substance called hydrogel.

The substance was molded into an item that could be made from plastic. Afterward, the object was freeze-dried to remove the moisture, causing it to solidify.

The Chinese scientists credited with this discovery, Dayong Yang and his team at Tianjin University, were able to test their innovation by making certain items- a cup, for instance.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the entire process, from start to finish, produces less than five percent of the carbon emissions released in the production of traditional plastic.

The exciting thing about salmon sperm is that any plastic created from it can also be recycled. How so? By putting it in water, the item goes back to the hydrogel form. This will allow the substance to be reshaped into a new item.

Even more, the plastic can be broken down by DNA digesting enzymes if it is no longer needed, leaving any trace. That’s neat!

But there’s a catch. What makes salmon sperm-produced plastics eco-friendly might just be its limitation. The fact that it can be recycled using water alone means that it would need to be protected from water. Adding waterproof coatings would only make it more difficult to recycle.

However, all hope is not lost. The researchers believe that the new material can be used for items like electronics like cellphones, computers, and other gadgets that need to be kept dry anyway.

Is our hype justified?


Plastics, though useful, are proving the bane of our existence. Every year, the world produces more than 380 million tons of plastic. Only a very small fraction is recycled while millions of plastics make their way into landfills and the ocean where they pollute waters, threaten marine life, and even pose a risk to our own health.

To make it worse, plastics are made from petrochemicals that require a lot of heat and toxic substances to manufacture. For these reasons, a lot of research has gone into finding less polluting and more sustainable options which are beneficial to us and to the natural environment.

So, we say kudos to Dayong Yang and his team as well as other scientists working tirelessly to make the planet safe for us.

Watch this space as we’ll be back for another edition of our #FactFriday.

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