Egypt Will Benefit From Eco-Friendly Bags
In a move to go green and save planet earth from the ill-effects of non-biodegrable plastics, bioengineers at the University of Nottingham are trialling how to use shrimp shells to make biodegradable shopping bags.
In particular, the project comes with the aim of helping Egypt manage its waste system which is a prevailing challenge to the Middle East country.
At present, the use of non-degradable plastic packaging is causing environmental and public health problems in Egypt. Non-degradable plastics become a hazard when it contaminates water supplies which particularly affects living conditions of the poor.
Thanks to the brilliant ideas of bioengineers!
According to Dr Nicola Everitt from the Faculty of Engineering at Nottingham, the head of the research together with academics at Nile University in Egypt, the country will benefit from these ‘eco-friendly’ bags made of prawn shells.
Dr Everitt said: “Use of a degradable biopolymer made of prawn shells for carrier bags would lead to lower carbon emissions and reduce food and packaging waste accumulating in the streets or at illegal dump sites. It could also make exports more acceptable to a foreign market within a 10-15-year time frame. All priorities at a national level in Egypt.”
The project is sponsored by the Newton Fund and the Newton-Mosharafa Fund grant and is one of 13 Newton-funded collaborations for The University of Nottingham.
Components of Prawn Shells
The research aims to produce an innovative biopolymer nanocomposite material which is degradable, affordable and suitable for shopping bags and food packaging.
Why prawn shells?
Shrimp shells can be a good source of chitosan, a man-made polymer derived from the organic compound chitin. Chitosan is a promising biodegradable polymer already used in pharmaceutical packaging due to its antimicrobial, antibacterial and biocompatible properties.
Chitosan can be extracted by using acid (to remove the calcium carbonate “backbone” of the crustacean shell) and then alkali (to produce the long molecular chains which make up the biopolymer). The dried chitosan flakes can then be dissolved into solution and polymer film made by conventional processing techniques.
The researchers also aim to develop an active polymer film that absorbs oxygen in the future.
If the project is successful, Dr Everitt plans to approach UK packaging manufacturers with the product.
In addition, the research aims to identify a production route by which these degradable biopolymer materials for shopping bags and food packaging could be manufactured.