Can shellf ish help clean up our seas?

Scot­tish sci­en­tists cre­ate eco-friendly plas­tics

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - It's New Year's Eve - By Ge­or­gia Ed­kins

SCOT­TISH sci­en­tists have de­vel­oped a rad­i­cal new al­ter­na­tive to plas­tic – made from the shells of lan­goustines.

Mil­lions of tons of plas­tic waste are be­ing washed into the sea ev­ery year – pos­ing a dev­as­tat­ing threat to ma­rine wildlife and the ocean.

But now re­searchers are us­ing the shell­fish – prized in a seafood plat­ter or eaten as scampi – to cre­ate an eco-friendly ver­sion.

Seafood in­dus­try by-prod­ucts are used to make a ground-break­ing bio-plas­tic which is com­pletely com­postable – and even ed­i­ble.

The re­mark­able new ma­te­rial func­tions in ex­actly the same way as reg­u­lar plas­tic but is eas­ily bro­ken down af­ter use as food pack­ag­ing. It could even be used to cre­ate solid ob­jects such as toys and work sur­faces in the fu­ture.

Dr Cait Mur­ray-Green, who is lead­ing the ini­tia­tive, says her nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tive could over­take the use of petrol-based plas­tic in the fu­ture. Dr Mur­ray-Green said: ‘Plas­tic re­ally is a lux­ury we can’t af­ford any­more. It’s a ridicu­lous waste of re­sources.

‘Peo­ple are now start­ing to un­der­stand that we’re putting eight mil­lion tons of plas­tic into the ocean ev­ery year, but we de­pend on the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment to live. This is a re­al­is­tic op­tion for the fu­ture.’

Dr Mur­ray-Green and her head sci­en­tist Dr Ryan Tay­lor are now col­lect­ing as many waste lan­gous­tine tails as pos­si­ble from fish­eries and fac­to­ries to take back to their Mother­well lab.

Within their shells is the sec­ond-high­est nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring biopoly­mer in the world, chitin, which is the ba­sis of their nat­u­ral plas­tic. The team ex­tract the chitin from the lan­gous­tine shell through a process of fer­men­ta­tion. A solid and a liq­uid are formed – the solid is chitin and the liq­uid is a vi­ta­min and pro­tein-rich so­lu­tion that can be used to make ‘gourmet’ sal­mon feed. The chitin is then dried un­til it re­sem­bles poly­styrene, be­fore be­ing pro­cessed to cre­ate a pow­der sim­i­lar to bread­crumbs called chi­tosan. Once mixed with other nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents it cre­ates an al­ter­na­tive to plas­tic that is com­pletely biodegrad­able. The bio-plas­tic is as durable and flex­i­ble as con­ven­tional plas­tic. Dr Mur­rayGreen said: ‘Be­cause it’s com­pletely com­postable, you won’t find it wrapped around a tur­tle’s neck or chok­ing a bird as plas­tics do.’

Dr Mur­ray-Green and Dr Tay­lor hope to open their first brew­ery­sized pro­duc­tion plant by the end of next year.

With the bio-plas­tic’s unique an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties, the team at CuanTec are al­ready be­ing asked to make spe­cial pack­ag­ing that will both keep food fresh for longer and kill dan­ger­ous pathogens such as E.coli, sal­mo­nella and lis­te­ria.

While pe­tro­leum-based plas­tic can take up to 450 years to break down, Cuantec’s bio-plas­tic wrap can be com­pletely com­posted in un­der 90 days.

Zero Waste Scot­land yes­ter­day praised the rev­o­lu­tion­ary bio-plas­tic project and said: ‘Any ini­tia­tive that tack­les items sym­bolic of our throw­away cul­ture is to be wel­comed.’

NO WASTE: Bio-plas­tic is made from seafood shells

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.