A Sustainable and Biodegradable Material Alternative

How do we move towards a

more sustainable future?

As designers, we must be aware of how materiality affects consumer products. Plastic is an often-used material that is utilized in everything from packaging to household items. The problem with plastic items is that they are often quickly disposed of. Plastic takes over 450 years to degrade, which causes the material to build up in landfills.

Kichin: A Solution

Environmental Impact

Kichin is made completely out of food waste and natural resources. Kichin strives to keep both plastic and waste out of landfills, and is biodegradable when disposed. It also uses heatless manufacturing, which reduces harm to the environment during production. 

Economic Impact

Food waste is a cheap, abundant, and readily available resource. Kichin turns waste into value by utilizing food waste as a resource, while saving the energy and cost of recycling and manufacturing plastic.

Social Impact

Kichin has the ability to create a community and spread awareness on both large and small scales. Large scale: building a relationship/system of recycling food waste from businesses to manufacturing facilities.

Small scale: community recycling and DIY material making.

Process + Research + Experimentation

Experimenting with Food Waste

Food waste such as peels, seeds, and shells were experimented with. Food waste is both sustainable and biodegradable.

Playing with Chitosan

Chitosan is a biomaterial made out of crustacean shells. We took inspiration from MIT's recipe and research.

Testing Combinations

Different ingredients and combinations from biology and food waste were tested in order to create a material with the traits we desired.

Combating Warping, Cracking, and Shrinkage

Ingredients were tweaked in order to avoid or mediate these results to make it more durable and reliable.

Finalizing Material

After the final ingredients were determined, hundreds of iterations were made in order to come to the final material.

Final Ingredients

Kichin = Food Waste + Sustainable Natural Resources


The fibrous nature of orange peels gives the material its strong and durable structure. The peels also make up the mass of the material.

Learn More


The chitin from shrimp shells can be used to create Chitosan. Chitosan with acetic acid is used as the perfect binder for all of the ingredients.


Gluten can be extracted from wheat, an abundant resource. The elasticity of gluten decreases brittleness and reduces cracking while drying.


Crickets are an abundant and sustainable source of protein. Protein powder from crickets helps add extra strength and  structure to the material.


Plant protein is another sustainable and abundant protein resource and can be an alternative to cricket protein.

Our Environment


Over 40% of our food is thrown out, ending up in landfills. What many don't realize is that rotting food in landfills also contributes to the dangerous 

release of greenhouse gases such as methane. 

Utilizing the food waste helps to recycle and reduce the amount headed to landfills


Community Engagement


We sought out local restaurants and shops in our community for readily available food waste resources. After connecting with a local juice bar that was throwing out bags of orange peels, we decided to integrate the peels as a key ingredient for our material. Although orange peels worked best, we discovered that any fibrous food waste could act as a substitute.

Material Benefits



By using food waste to create the material, other resources are not depleted. This also keeps the waste out of landfills, turning waste into value.



Because Kichin is made entirely out of food waste and natural resources, it’s both biodegradable and compostable, taking less time to degrade.



Kichin is extremely durable and structural, making it a good material alternative to hard plastics.


The material has manufacturable 

potential due to its moldable ability. It can hold both simple and complex geometries and is able to be sanded, drilled, and polished.


Able to hold complex geometries

Able to mold to rounded geometries 

Able to create thin walls, be sanded, and be drilled through

Awards + Recognition

+ Wanted Design: Conscious Design for


+ Lexus Design Award Shortlist

+ Biodesign Challenge Finalist

+ Displayed at SVA Gallery

+ Presented at the MoMA

+ Showcased at the Global Community

    Bio Summit

+ Showcased at the New Harvest exhibit

Special thanks to GenSpace

Anna Lu, Jil Berenblum, Esther Chang, Phoenix Lai

© 2018 Anna Lu

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