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Are Shrimp Carcasses the Next Packaging Innovation?

Shrimp meat is available almost everywhere you go, the vast majority of it already peeled making it easy for you to throw up a quick meal. What happens the shells that the meat was encased in though? Around 100 million pounds worth of shells are accumulated each year in the US from shrimp, crab and crawfish combined.  This a whopping amount of shell and it is generally discarded of as waste.

A new idea however could possibly change this.  A group of researchers at the University of the Basque Country in Spain are currently experimenting with the shells as packaging. Packaging at the moment is typically made from plastic that is unsustainable due to its petroleum properties. As a result the packaging clogs up the ocean and landfill sites. Every year plastic packaging kills seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other ocean marine life. It is also possible that fish are absorbing the pollutants caused by packaging which in turn are then digested by people who eat the fish. 

Shrimp shells however could bring about the invention of a new type of packaging, one that is sustainable and poses no threat to the environment.  Chitosan, a component from crustacean’s shells is often found in dietary supplements for its supposed fat absorbing qualities. The researchers however are using chitosan as a possible film to preserve food products. Already tested on baby carrots, the film proved to keep them fresh.  Capable of protecting food from microbes the film has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.  Chitosan is already used for fighting fungal infections in plants, to prevent spoilage in the fermentation of wine and is even used in bandages to help wounds heal quickly.  It is these properties that caused researchers to believe that chitosan was a suitable material for preserving food. 

Itsaso Leceta, the groups head researcher has stressed that finding a replacement for plastic food packaging is urgent.  The level of waste packaging that is produced is so much that it is having adverse effects on our planet, killing our marine and wildlife. 

Lecetas researches aren’t the only people to have thought about the use of chitosan as a packaging. Harvard’s Whyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said chitosan is “the second most abundant organic material on earth.” (Source - http://munchies.vice.com/articles/scientists-want-to-package-your-potato-chips-in-shrimp-carcasses) It is easily gathered from shrimp and crabs but can also be collected from copepods and plankton sizes crustaceans that are capable of producing billions of tons of the component each year. The researchers have already experimented with cups but are confident it could also be used to make bin bags, carrier bags and nappies, some of the biggest offenders of land and water pollution.   

Image source - http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/food/20130116/do-this-with-your-shrimp-shells


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Are Shrimp Carcasses the Next Packaging Innovation?

Shrimp meat is available almost everywhere you go, the vast majority of it already peeled making it easy for you to throw up a quick meal. What happens the shells that the meat was encased in though? Around 100 million pounds worth of shells are accumulated each year in the US from shrimp, crab and crawfish combined.  This a whopping amount of shell and it is generally discarded of as waste.

A new idea however could possibly change this.  A group of researchers at the University of the Basque Country in Spain are currently experimenting with the shells as packaging. Packaging at the moment is typically made from plastic that is unsustainable due to its petroleum properties. As a result the packaging clogs up the ocean and landfill sites. Every year plastic packaging kills seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other ocean marine life. It is also possible that fish are absorbing the pollutants caused by packaging which in turn are then digested by people who eat the fish. 

Shrimp shells however could bring about the invention of a new type of packaging, one that is sustainable and poses no threat to the environment.  Chitosan, a component from crustacean’s shells is often found in dietary supplements for its supposed fat absorbing qualities. The researchers however are using chitosan as a possible film to preserve food products. Already tested on baby carrots, the film proved to keep them fresh.  Capable of protecting food from microbes the film has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.  Chitosan is already used for fighting fungal infections in plants, to prevent spoilage in the fermentation of wine and is even used in bandages to help wounds heal quickly.  It is these properties that caused researchers to believe that chitosan was a suitable material for preserving food. 

Itsaso Leceta, the groups head researcher has stressed that finding a replacement for plastic food packaging is urgent.  The level of waste packaging that is produced is so much that it is having adverse effects on our planet, killing our marine and wildlife. 

Lecetas researches aren’t the only people to have thought about the use of chitosan as a packaging. Harvard’s Whyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said chitosan is “the second most abundant organic material on earth.” (Source - http://munchies.vice.com/articles/scientists-want-to-package-your-potato-chips-in-shrimp-carcasses) It is easily gathered from shrimp and crabs but can also be collected from copepods and plankton sizes crustaceans that are capable of producing billions of tons of the component each year. The researchers have already experimented with cups but are confident it could also be used to make bin bags, carrier bags and nappies, some of the biggest offenders of land and water pollution.   

Image source - http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/food/20130116/do-this-with-your-shrimp-shells


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