Sea turtles are another family of creatures that have been
used as a raw material source, not just for their meat and eggs but
for other reasons as well. Little did we know way back when
that these natural polymers had so many uses, or even that they were
natural polymers. Fortunately, thanks to the wonderful world of man-made
polymers, we don't have to search for polymer material sources from
nature. And we don't have to kill any more turtles to get them.
One of the natural products that was obtained from turtles was leather for some of the same reasons that we also obtained it from sharks. Leather is a very common and useful material containing natural polymers. Leather is made through chemical treatment that involves taking animal skin and tanning it by a process known as crosslinking. This process makes the skin very strong and flexible.
One use of leather is for belts that may be keeping your pants from dropping below your knees right now, or it may be used to hold your money and credit cards in something called a wallet.
Another natural product were specialty oils. Such oils, which were also found in whales, were obtained from turtles and used for fragrances that women sprayed on their bodies to smell pleasant and perhaps to attract men. These oils were also used in cosmetics such as lipstick and blush.
Similar cosmetics are also known as war paint in some parts of the world.
There is an upside and a downside to using natural products. First of all it is, of course, natural.
Who could ask for anything better than that?
Yes, natural products are good because then we are using the things in the environment around us which also makes them able to be regenerated naturally. For the most part this is good if the animals we get the raw materials from are plentiful. The bad part is that there is more of a demand than there is a supply, and this has quickly diminished the living resources. Now we come to some really good news, that we can make the same materials ourselves, and oftentimes, make even better ones. There are natural product chemists that specialize in that, making the fragrances and oils that we used to get from aquatic animals. There are also chemists and engineers who are expert in the relatively new field of polymer science.
What polymer science can provide is something that we have needed for some time, and that is a way to make these products that we like to use without killing off living organisms or otherwise damaging the environment, like the coral reefs where many turtles hang out.
PAPER OR PLASTIC??!!
One of the problems that has yet to be addressed effectively is the use of plastic bags. Although they are very useful in saving trees used to make paper bags, there are a number of environmental problems with plastic. Leatherback turtles, for example, like the taste of jellyfish, which are pretty easy to spot, just kinda floating around in the water. Well, these plastic grocery bags can end up blowing into the ocean when not properly disposed of, and to a turtle, they look like jellyfish. Unfortunately, they don't digest like a jellyfish, and that has caused major impact on turtle populations. Perhaps someone out there, like you, who wants to be a scientist can find a way to solve this problem.
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