Material designer Aagje Hoekstra turns heat-pressed natural chitin—found in the outer shells of darkling beetles—into Coleoptera, a plastic that's water- and heat-resistant up to 200°C, making it an ideal material for disposable cups and silverware.
Industrial designer Masami Lavault is turning spoiled milk into a plastic, and then into biodegradable furniture like milking stools. The idea, dubbed the Milk of Human Kindness, is to make use of Europe's 3.7 billion annual gallons of dairy waste.
Researchers at São Paulo State University developed a nanocellulosic plastic (i.e., nature-derived plastic with tiny fibers) made from coconut shells, agave, and pineapple that is 30% lighter than traditional plastics yet three to four times as strong, perfect for impact protection.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.