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The Shellworks (Materials Innovation, 2021)Shellworks - Biodegradable plastic alternative

The Shellworks

Finalist in 2021 for Materials Innovation

The Shellworks began as a response to the plastic pollution crisis. Only 9% of all plastics are recycled globally, and this has led to 63 billion tonnes of plastic waste on our planet to date. The Shellworks’ solution comes in the form of a biopolymer – chitin – extracted from fermented seafood waste. Chitin is the second most common polymer found in nature, and through this production method The Shellworks make use of the 6-8 million tonnes of crustacean waste produced each year. Chitin is also found in insect shells and the walls of fungi, and due to the natural composition of the base ingredients the materials created are compostable.

The Shellworks’ practice started when the team were each studying at the Royal College of Art from 2017-2019, including team members Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Ed Jones. Their materials are created with two key intentions: to educate the public and be a viable commercial product. They also explore how aesthetics can inform how consumers understand a material. Shellworks are actively experimenting with their materials in order to incorporate additional natural waste substrates and natural dyes rather than petroleum based products.