‘Tis the season to be merry. For many, ’tis also the season to shop and show off our purchases in paper or plastic bags. Unfortunately, plastic bags are bad for the environment. They can’t be recycled and clutter landfills. Paper bags are (more) eco-friendly, but weak. If they get even a bit wet or soggy, they fall apart.
What if we had the best of both worlds, a strong and study shopping bag that was also good for the environment? Maybe Nature already has it figured out. Think of spider sacks, those (gross) bags of spider silk that house spider eggs. So what if we made shopping bags out of spider silk? Spider silk is strong like steel and flexible. It’s also biodegradable and recycable. Using spider silk to make things or do stuff may not be so outlandish — or new. Apparently, the ancient Greeks applied cobwebs to wounds to take advantage of its antiseptic properties.
But how would we make a large grocery bag from a teeny tiny spider sac? It may not be as impossible as it seems. We could harvest the silk from large spider farms spinning thousands of webs and sacks (I’m pretty sure that growing up, my bedroom was a spider farm *shudder*). After collecting silk, we could weave it into bags by scaling up technology that can already weave nanostructures.
We’ve harnessed cotton, wool and bamboo as natural fibers for clothing and accessories. Is spider silk next?