Chitosan Biopalstics: Durable, biodegradable and recyclable material that is made from crustacean shell waste. A research project done in collaboration with Ronny Haberer to discover reliable source for plastic alternative.

Pratt Institute, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum            
Paul Kheem, Ronny Haberer, Fall 2017

Material Research • Sustainable Design • Packaging Design • Product Engineering


A boy swims through Manila Bay collecting recyclable plastic waste. Image shows the seriousness of marine pollution.   © Reuters

The oceans face a massive and growing threat from something you encounter everyday: plastics. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources every year—this is roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute.


Sheet molded in repetitive hexagonal pattern, Chitosan 12%, Acidity 3%, Additives 0%, Cure time 48hrs.

Making Process

Production Experiments

Recycling Experiment

Scrap materials from different experiments reconstituted into new material in 72 hours. Every piece had a different cure time, acidity and ratio of the components.

Experimented Tools


Chitosan Powder Calcium Citrus
Calcium Carbonate
Silk Protein

Apple Cider Vinegar
(5% acidity)
White Vinegar
(5% acidity)
Distilled Water


Triple Beam Balance Oven / Microwave
Laser Printer



Laser-cut Acrylic
3d printed PLA Plasticine

Conclusion on Production

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Dec 2017

Chitosan Bioplastics has an issue of warping and shrinking which makes it difficult for industrial use. Through our experiments, we figured out a way to control these issues by structure and additives. Chitosan Bioplastic biodegrades in two weeks while plastic takes more than 450 years. In addition, chitin is an abundant resource that is not utilized enough. Every year, 100 billion tons of chitin are produced in nature which is 400 times more than plastic usage. So far, we have succeeded with producing sheet, solid and foam materials. It can replace plastic bags and long-term use plastic products such as electronics. Because it is a water-based material, it does not solidify in an enclosed mold. The next step for Chitosan Bioplastics is to experiment with injection molding with a ventilation system.

Paul Kheem Design

Brooklyn, NY.