International Life

Egyptian researchers turn shrimp shells into biodegradable plastic

Reuters Logo
By Nadine Awadalla

CAIRO (Reuters) – Researchers at Egypt’s Nile University are developing a way to turn dried shrimp shells that would otherwise be thrown away into thin films of biodegradable plastic they hope will be used to make eco-friendly grocery bags and packaging.

Six months into their two-year project, the research team has managed to create a thin, clear prototype using chitosan, a material found in the shells of many crustaceans.

“If commercialised, this could really help us decrease our waste… and it could help us improve our food exports because the plastic has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties,” Irene Samy, a professor overseeing the project, told Reuters.

The researchers buy unwanted shrimp shells from restaurants, supermarkets and local fishermen at cheap prices.

Using shrimp shells is more sustainable because it could replace synthetic materials used in plastics and cut the amount of biowaste produced by the Egyptian food industry, Samy said.

Assistant professor Irene Samy and researcher Marwa Faisal work on their project to create biodegradable plastic bags from shrimp shells, a project in collaboration with Nottingham University, at the Nile University in Cairo, Egypt February 28, 2017. REUTERS/ Mohamed Zaki

The shells are cleaned, chemically treated, ground and dissolved into a solution that dries into thin films of plastic, a technique the team says has potential for large-scale industrial production.

“Egypt imports around 3,500 tonnes of shrimp, which produce 1,000 tonnes of shells as waste… Instead of throwing the shells away, we can make biodegradable plastic bags,” Hani Chbib, a researcher on the project, told Reuters.

The project is a collaboration between the Nile University team of four and another research group at the University of Nottingham in Britain, where Samy conducted her post-doctoral research and first started experimenting with the idea.

The team has only produced small samples and the project is not yet ready to go into commercial production but the team is working hard to develop properties that would allow the material to go into widespread use.

“We are continuing to work on enhancing its properties, like thermal stability and durability,” Samy said.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Zaki, editing by Lin Noueihed and Ken Ferris)
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Related posts

PNG-Australia Carbon Deal

Jack Lapauve Jnr.

Scientists to test 50 coral reefs to seek ways to counter climate change


Yahoo aims to phase out passwords with new service

EMTV Online

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!