Did you know that scientists have actually found a way to make environmentally-friendly plastic from salmon sperm? Yup, it’s true, and the results are amazing.

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Photo from E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS

Last month, researchers from Tianjin University in eastern China published a paper that claimed they had successfully developed a bioplastic from salmon sperm.

The process seemed simple enough; they first dissolved strands of DNA from salmon sperm into water combined with ionomers. These chemicals commonly found in adhesives help to create a gel that can be “aqua-welded,” or molded into various shapes. They are then freeze-dried to remove the moisture and retain the shape.

Photo from J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2021, 143, 46, 19486—19497

The new bioplastic serves as a pretty promising alternative to regular plastics, which normally take immense amounts of heat and toxic substances to manufacture. For this new salmon sperm plastic, however? The whole process produces 97 percent less carbon emissions than regular manufacturing polystyrene plastics.

And to add to that, recycling it is almost as easy as producing it. You only need to add DNA-digesting enzymes to break the material down. Avid recyclers can also use regular old water to revert the items back into a gel, which can then be reformed into a new object.

It’s a handy new invention in a world where 88% of the sea’s surface is littered with plastic. If and when it’s refined, scientists are hoping that this bioplastic can revolutionize the way we use the material.

According to the researchers in Tianjin, salmon isn’t the only usable source of DNA — fruits and algae are also on the list of possibilities.

“The potential of DNA that is rapidly and massively produced by the market is of great importance for future applications of DNA plastics,” they said.

Art Macky Arquilla

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