More than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, killing marine life and da

maging ecosystems. But the same seas might also hold the key to reducing plastic pollution.

  Proteins found in squid can be used to create sustainable alternative

s to plastics, according to a report published in Frontiers in Chemistry on Thursday.

  Squid grasp their prey using suction cups on their tentacles and arm

s. The cups are equipped with sharp “ring teeth” that hold the food in place. The teeth are made

from proteins that are similar to silk, and these have become the subject of scientific interest in the last few years.

  Melik Demirel, of Pennsylvania State University, is lead author of the new report, which revie

ws existing research on materials made from these proteins. He says his team has produced pro

totypes of fibers, coatings and 3D objects made from the squid ring teeth (SRT) proteins.

  Demirel says these natural materials are biodegradable — and could provide an “excellent” alternative to plastics.

  The SRT proteins can be produced in the laboratory using genetically engineered ba

cteria, which means they don’t need to use any squid. The process is based on fermentation, using sugar, water and oxygen.

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