In the early 1900s, plastics made from milk proteins (known as casein) were all the rage—until oil-based polymers knocked the environmentally friendly method off its pedestal. For a recent project called Protein, artist Tessa Silva-Dawson decided to go back to the all-natural method, creating durable containers that are 100 percent biodegradable and toxin free.

In an interview with Design Indaba, the London-based artist explained that casein plastics were once used as an alternative to materials like tortoise shells and ivory (for things like buttons and beads). The plastics were made with powdered milk and then hardened in toxic formaldehyde, which is a step Silva-Dawson nixed for her project. The proteins were extracted from skim milk, and Silva-Dawson told Design Indaba: “… skimmed milk is wasted in large quantities due to the separation process required to make butter and cream. The project, therefore, does not suggest a mass increase in dairy production, but instead proposes the utilisation of a commonly wasted and widely available raw material.”

You can check out the bowls and cups on the designer's website. And if you're so inclined, learn how to make your very own natural plastic here.





[h/t PSFK]

Images courtesy of Tessa Silva-Dawson.

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.