A patent-pending drinking cup made of chitin is described. The inner chitin surface of the cup is impervious to water- and oil-based content. The cup on it outer surface contains desiccated (‘lyophilized’) enzymes, which, when activated by a contact with an ambient water decompose chitin into chitosan, a water-soluble substance, and thus degrade the container. Enzymes are protected from premature activation by special enzyme-containing compartments design and, optionally, via water ingress retarding means.
Items made of chitin, in the absence of degrading enzymes are water- and oil-resistant virtually indefinitely. Chitosan, on the other hand, is water-soluble, environmentally benign and advantageously used in wide-ranging industrial, medical, biochemical and agricultural applications.
Chitin is widely available a a waste product of shrimping industry.
Per US Dept. of Commerce, in 1973 alone there were 1.5 million tons of chitin produced as waste from shellfish processing. The chitinous solid waste from shrimping operations in India alone amounted to 80,000 tons in 2004.
The degrading enzymes (chitilases) are widely commercially available.