Not for sensitive skin….

Jellyfish in Osaka

Jellyfish aren’t too popular are they? We’re all pretty happy admiring their rather ethereal form behind the (hopefully) solid walls of aquarium glass, but as soon as you hear the scream of ‘jellyfish in the water’, we’re out of there faster than it takes the England football team to get knocked out of the World Cup.

Trending in the news recently however, is a rather novel idea that may see ‘jellyfish derived’ products gracing well known supermarket shelves. Cine’al Ltd., an Israeli nanotechnology start-up, is using jellyfish parts to create a new absorptive material called hydromash, which could be made into napkins, medical spongers, paper towels and (perhaps most worryingly) baby nappies and tampons. The product essentially capitalises on a jellyfishes absorbent abilities; their bodies are made of a substance that can absorb vast quantities of liquid and hold it without disintegrating or dissolving. Adding nano-materials to jellyfish flesh creates a product that can hold several times its weight in water and will biodegrade in about 30 days. Great so far, right?

And it gets better. Creating jellyfish derived products may help to solve two pretty severe environmental problems that are devastating our Earth. Globally, jellyfish populations are exploding with jellyfish being one of the few winners of the 21st century fight against climate change.  This is not only frustrating for us beach-goers but also damaging at an economic and environmental level. In Japan, Nomura jellyfish (each of which can grow to the size of a refrigerator) capsized and sunk a 10-ton trawler when fisherman tried to haul up a net of them. In Sweden, Oskarshamn nuclear power plant ground to a halt when a group of wandering jellyfish found their way into an industrial pipe.

‘Jellyfish diapers’ may also be able to decrease the amount of garbage that is clogging up our rubbish tips. Babies poo. A lot. So much so that one-third of disposable waste in dumps today consists of baby nappies. Another alarming fact published by the Real Diaper Association states that more than 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks, and 20 pounds of CHLORINE are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year. Just what are we putting on our babies’ bottom?

Jellyfish are harming our seas and Pampers nappies are destroying our lands. These green, biodegradable, jellyfish-derived products may offer a way to solve these two problems simultaneously. But will people buy them? Now that’s a tough one to call.

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Louisa Wood

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