https://vimeo.com/502746297

Turning plastic into edible proteins

The Inxect suit is a wearable device with regenerative properties that breaks down toxic plastic composites into edible proteins with a low CO2 footprint. The design enables a symbiotic relationship between a human body and a mealworm colony, addressing both food security and plastic pollution challenges on a grand scale. The suit was developed by architect Pavels Liepins during his master thesis in 2020/21 at the "Architecture and Extreme Environments" program at the Royal Academy, Denmark.

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Using static body movement to generate heat for the mealworm habitat. Photo credit: Jacky Han

Plastic-eating Insects

Mealworm is the larva of the darkling beetle and are among the most protein-dense sources for human consumption, with the lowest CO2 footprint.

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Mealworm, Photo credit: Jacob Schill

In 2019, a discovery by researchers at Stanford University showed that mealworms have the ability to eat and digest plastics without storing any toxic components in their bodies. The mealworms can easily be processed for use as human food, and their excrement can in turn be used as fertilizer. Furthermore, mealworms change exoskeletons during their life cycle, leaving a raw material that has the potential for being used in creating degradable bioplastics.

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Mealworm colony eating polystyrene. Photo credit: Jacob Schill

Challenging the Protein Consumer

In order to address food security and plastic pollution issues, Pavels suggested a design that challenges the protein consumer to become an active agent in a smaller scale ecosystem. The Inxect suit is the result of this ambition to create an interchange between humans and non-human life. The project targets the root of the unbalanced relationship between polluting human food production in relation to natural life.

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Ready to operate in areas with airborne pathogens, Photo credit: Jacky Han

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A protein rich pasta dish made out of the harmless (plastic eating) mealworms. Photo credit: Pavels Liepins

A Human Power Plant

The Inxect suit emphasizes the human body as a power plant that generates heat through movement. The suit captures the user’s heat and humidity, which is channeled into a habitat integrated into the abdomen attachment of the suit. In this dome-shaped terrarium, mealworms are fed plastics that they eat and digest. The environment in the habitat is continuously measured and communicated to the user through sensors and logs. Hence the Inxect suit is a mobile plastic waste and protein production management system.

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Diagram showing the function of the inxect suit. Photo credit: Pavels Liepins

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Drawings on the inxect suit. Photo credit: Pavels Liepins

Plastic Waste, Food Security, and the Faroese Economy

The Faroese economy relies almost entirely on the fishing industry, a resource that is threatened by the fact that the world's oceans will weigh more in plastic than in fish by the year 2050. As a response to this, Pavels sought solutions that could tackle the issues of food security and plastic pollution, resulting in a new Faroese export. A possible solution to these complex challenges can be found by initiating ecosystems where mealworms and humans function in a symbiotic relationship.

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User investigating the mealworm habitat. Photo credit: Jacky Han

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Integrating the concept in daily life. Photo credit: Jacky Han

About Inxects

Inxects is a design laboratory founded by architect Pavels Liepins. The company speculates on present and future global challenges through regenerative design concepts. Inxects operates as a cross-disciplinary studio, uniting architecture, science, body culture, art, and design.


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