Eco-Friendly "DNA Plastic" Created With Fish Jizz

The plan could make a bunch of salmon really, really happy. Image: https://krakenimages.com//Shutterstock

Plastic was invented over 100 years ago, which seems about right. After all, it’s hard to imagine it getting through Shark Tank today: it’s made by extracting fossil fuels from the Earth, releasing hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases, then refining them using some of the most energy-intensive and greenhouse gas emissions-intensive processes around. Practically all of it gets thrown away almost immediately, where it kills a couple of million animals worldwide before spending the next few centuries in weird places like space or human placentas.

Perhaps it’s time for an update. A study published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society has made a few ripples with one potential solution: salmon sperm.

“Plastics play important roles in modern life and currently the development of plastic recycling is highly demanding and challenging,” the study begins. “To relieve this dilemma, one option is to develop new sustainable bioplastics that are compatible with the environment over the whole material life cycle.”

“We report a sustainable bioplastic made from natural DNA and biomass-derived ionomers, termed as DNA plastics,” the authors explain.

Although the “natural DNA” in question comes, yes, from fish jizz, the team says that pretty much any DNA could do the job. The bioplastic is created from short strands of the genetic material which have been impregnated with a chemical extracted from vegetable oil, resulting in a splodge of squishy stuff called hydrogel.

Now, hydrogels are mostly known as those balls that swell and grow when wet, but in this case, the scientists actually did the exact opposite. After molding their splats into whatever shape they wanted, they then removed all moisture from the gel by freeze-drying it. This made the gel solid, leaving the scientists with a useable plastic item.

“To the best of our knowledge, our reported DNA plastics are the most environmentally sustainable materials of any known plastics,” study lead Dayong Yang told The Times.

As the paper points out, the fishy concoction has quite a few advantages over traditional plastics: “the raw materials are derived from biorenewable resources,” the authors write, and the creation process is “environmentally friendly,” using 97 percent fewer carbon emissions than the production of traditional polystyrene plastics and avoiding “high-energy consumption, the use of organic solvents, and the production of byproducts.”

And the benefits aren’t limited to the plastics’ production. See, if there’s one thing you can say with near-certainty about salmon cum, it’s that it doesn’t seem to pervade every conceivable ecosystem at every possible scale, and being made from this procreative material means that “DNA plastic” objects are extremely easy to dispose of. Firstly, they’re incredibly recyclable: simply dip them in water, and the object will turn back into hydrogel, ready to be fashioned into something new. And then, when you’re finally finished with this jizz-based Terminator T-1000, all it takes is an “enzyme-triggered controllable degradation under mild conditions” to break the bioplastic down forever.

The researchers have already produced some of this bioplastic, using it to create puzzle pieces, a model of a DNA strand, and a coffee cup. If that last one sounds a bit misguided, considering the plastic’s tendency to revert back to a hydrogel when it touches water – well, you’re not wrong. That’s why the team sees their creation being used more for things like electronics or certain forms of packaging – things that can’t get wet.

With plastics set to outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, it’s never been more urgent for us to whip out an alternative. This DNA plastic “will advance the development of sustainable materials,” the team believes – and if all goes as planned, we may be drinking eggnog from eco-friendly cum goblets sooner than we expect.

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