A team of bioengineers at the University of Nottingham and Nile University of Egypt are developing a biodegradable material for shopping bags - an alternative to plastic bags. They suggest using shrimp shells as raw materials.
Familiar plastic bags have long been one of the main "characters" of all urban landfills in Egypt and a source of pollution of coastal waters. Replacing polyethylene with plant-based bioplastics is not possible, since the basis of Egypt's agriculture is vegetables, fruits and cotton.
According to the researchers, the best solution to this problem is chitosan, an artificial polymer made from the shells of shrimp that live in abundance in coastal waters.
Chitosan is obtained by treating shrimp shells with acid. After removing calcium carbonate, the raw material is placed in an alkaline solution, where it is converted into a polymer in the form of flakes. The flakes are then processed into plastic wrap using conventional technology.
Chitosan is already used in the food industry, medicine and in the manufacture of various packaging. Its main advantages are antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. In addition, chitosan actively absorbs oxygen, which extends the shelf life of the products inside such a package.
“Using degradable chitosan-based biopolymers, ” explains project lead Dr. Nicola Everit of the University of Nottingham, “will result in less CO 2 emissions and less waste in streets and landfills. Biodegradable packaging is likely to be in demand in other countries within 10-15 years. "