From Pest to Bioplastic

Craft & Design
From Pest to Bioplastic

When life gives you mitten crabs, make bioplastic.

The Chinese mitten crab, an invasive species from East Asia, gets its name because it looks like it’s wearing a pair of furry mittens on its claws. But it’s not so cute. The crab negatively impacts native wildlife in Europe and the U.S., where it’s labeled an “injurious species.”

London-based industrial designer Jeongwon Ji has come up with a practical solution to combat the crustaceous invaders. She crunches up their shells and makes a biodegradable plastic she calls “crustic.” The material is made of red algae, glycerine, water and chitin, a long chain polymer that makes the shells hard.

Ji has incorporated crustic in a series of electronic enclosures, formed on wooden molds. She calls the series BioElectric.

“Although production time is longer, this nontoxic process can improve the work life of those who manufacture our electronics,” she says.

The finished product has a pebbled, coarse texture that evokes its natural origins.

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Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook


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