How many types of biodegradable plastic had you invented by the time you were 15?
Angelina Arora has two under her belt. Her first foray into biodegradable plastic was a creation made from vegetable starches that breaks down in water – not the most practical end for plastic. Nonetheless, her invention won her first prize in Chemistry at the NSW Young Scientist Awards in 2016, and caught the attention of her future mentors at CSIRO.
In order to make a viable change to industry-grade plastics, Angelina reinvented her plastic – this time using proteins extracted from prawn shells and the cocoons of silk worms. This groundbreaking plastic is durable and flexible, and won’t instantly break down in water, and it’s won her a place in BHP’s coveted Science and Engineering awards for 2018.
Angelina has big dreams for this plastic too. “The dream is to see my plastic all around the world in shops as bags, phone screens, on foods as cling wrap and everywhere you go and see ordinary plastic.” she says.
Making her plastic out of waste materials was no mistake, either; Angelina was driven to create her plastic from her love of animals and the environment.
“My biodegradable plastic decomposes 1.5 million times faster than conventional ones. It’s not going to be there to choke turtles and kill all other animals that die from eating plastics.”
“I also conducted research to see if chemicals from micro plastics were entering our food chain through fish, and whether those chemicals are the cause of endocrine disorders in humans as the main chemicals used in plastics are endocrine disruptors.”
It’s amazing that she has so much time to dedicate to her research – a feat she conducts in her spare time between playing the clarinet, piano, cricket and swimming; competing in debating and ‘Tournament of the Minds’; joining the sustainability club and a social justice group; acting as library monitor; and volunteering at hospitals.
“Doing your own research outside of school gives you the freedom to do what you really like and be creative, not for a grade. You grow interests, expand awareness and increase your curiosity.”
“Plus it gives young people something productive to do for humanity rather than watching Netflix.”
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.