Scientists turn out perishable plastic made of fish waste

Canadian researchers say fish heads, bones, skin and guts heading for landfill can be turned into useful material. New plastic could replace crude oil-derived polyurethanes, which are found in everything from shoes and clothes to refrigerators and construction materials. Researchers used oil extracted from bits of salmon left after the flesh had been removed and processed for human consumption. Experiments suggested the new material might biodegrade readily when required and could be used in a variety of products including packaging and clothing. The material could be easily broken down again at the end of its useful life, the researchers say. The team, led by Francesca Kerton, who is based at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, found that fish-oil-based plastics could provide an environmentally friendly solution while also tackling food factory waste. The team is studying how it might potentially be use in real world applications, such as packaging or fibers for clothing.

Polyurethanes are traditionally made using crude oil and phosgene, a toxic gas. The process generates isocyanates, which are powerful irritants to the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. The final product does not readily break down in the environment and can release carcinogenic compounds. The research was due to be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Monday.