Meet Shellmet, a sturdy and lightweight helmet made of discarded scallop shells

Incorporating the shells significantly increases the durability of the product by 30 percent in comparison to ordinary helmets.
Deena Theresa

Is it a scallop shell, a mollusk, or a clam? None of these. It's a Shellmet!

Ever wondered what happens to discarded shells or the ones left behind on a seafood platter? Most of it is considered commercial waste and tossed into landfills. It's a shame because these shells are strong and can be easily recycled into other valuable products. According to reports, Japanese restaurants throw away 40,000 tons of scallop shells every year. 

The environmental repercussions are huge and can lead to serious soil contamination. So, a Japanese startup Quantum, and a creative agency in Japan, TBWA/Hakuhodo, in partnership with Koshui Chemical Industry Co., decided to make something of it. They discovered that the main component of scallop shells is calcium carbonate, which could be reused as a raw material for a new product.

The shellfish waste was crushed and blended with recycled plastic to make protective hats for fishermen - and thus, Shellmet was born.

Meet Shellmet, a sturdy and lightweight helmet made of discarded scallop shells
The Shellmet was primarily designed for Japan's fishing community.

Designed to be worn as a cycle helmet and in disaster zones

According to Shellmet's creators, the product was primarily created keeping in mind the fishing community in Japan's Sarufutsu village, where around 40,000 tons of scallop shells go to waste annually. But Shellmet is also designed to be worn in situations such as disaster prevention, bicycle commuting, and work sites. 

"Scallops are the most commonly eaten shellfish by Japanese people, and it is also the shellfish that results in the most amount of waste," TBWA\Hakuhodo told Dezeen. "We asked ourselves, what if we could turn these scallop shells into a new resource instead of waste?"

Most Popular

"Shells that have protected themselves from external enemies are now reborn as something that protects human life," the agency said.

Meet Shellmet, a sturdy and lightweight helmet made of discarded scallop shells
Scallop shells are effectively used in the Shellmet.

The helmet is made of scallop shells

As per the release, Shellmet is based on the concept of "biomimicry," in which systems and elements of nature are emulated to solve human problems.

The scallop helmet weighs only 400 grams and incorporates a special rib structure in its design that 'mimics' the structure of scallop shells, which accounts for part of the material used for helmet production. Called Shellstic, the material combines scallop shells from the seafood industry with recycled plastic.

This significantly increases the durability of the product by 30 percent, in comparison to the case without the rib structure. Shellmet only upcycles scallop shells that would have been discarded.

How is Shellstic made? The collected shells are boiled and sterilized, and then finely crushed, mixed with the plastic, and inserted into a helmet mold, Dezeen reported.

You can buy it this spring

Effectively blending both materials contributes to a 36 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the use of 100 percent new plastic. 

Koushi Chemical Industry Co uses mineral and synthetic pigments to color the material in either sunset pink, ocean blue, sand cream, coral white, or deep black. 

Shellmet's materials can also be recycled to make another helmet or reused separately.

The work gear is designed to be worn in various situations, such as disaster prevention, bicycle commuting, and work sites.

Currently, in Sarufutsu Village, approximately 270 fishermen wear plastic helmets. The company will release Shellmet to the public in the spring of 2023.