New innovation turns lobster waste into food packaging

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SCOTTISH project which tackles plastic pollution with food packaging made out of shellfish waste has received a funding boost from the local community development agency.

Called the Celtic Crustacean Collaboration, the project is being led by CuanTec Limited together with the Scottish Association of Marine Science.

CuanTec has developed a ‘world-first’ method for biologically extracting a naturally occurring polymer, chitin, from waste langoustine shells and converting this to the base material for plastic-free food packaging.

Dr Tracy White, head of science at CuanTec, said: “We’re dedicated to developing solutions to the issue that single-use plastic is creating.

“I graduated from the Scottish Association of Marine Science and I know, first-hand, the calibre of facilities and resources it offers to bio-tech businesses like ours.

“We’re confident we’re in the right place to make a significant contribution to this global challenge.”

The company’s process is ‘environmentally sensitive, cost-efficient, requires less energy, and uses 95% fewer chemicals than conventional processes.’

The resulting packaging material has ‘natural food preserving properties’ and will be home compostable.

It also has ‘the ability to keep food fresh and potentially extend shelf life.’

The project focuses on the commercial viability of the product by developing industrial-scale methods of extracting and converting the polymer from the shells and other food waste sources of chitin.

It will further test the product against industry regulatory standards and end-user requirements and investigate other potential sources of the polymer.

Funding has been made possible through Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s role as a delivery partner in the EU INTERREG VA funded Co-Innovate programme.

This €14.7 m programme – including €2.2m from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise – supports innovation and cross-border R&D projects in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Gillian Galloway, head of innovation at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, commented as the funding was announced: “Plastic packaging is recognised as being at the root of a major waste pollution problem, particularly in the sea and around the coast.

“This highly innovative project has the potential to help address this issue through reducing the use of plastic.

“It will also help cut carbon emissions from the burning of unrecycled plastic waste.

“We are very pleased to be able to support this initiative as part of the international Co-Innovate programme, and very much look forward to seeing the product move towards commercialisation.”

The Co-Innovate programme encourages cross-border research and innovation among small to medium enterprises in fragile areas.

In Scotland it supports innovation in SMEs in Argyll and Bute, Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, the Outer Hebrides, Ayrshire and Arran, and Dumfries and Galloway. It also covers Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.

This story was first reported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise