Researchers are developing new biodegradable food packaging materials from chitin, a common seafood.
Plastic food packaging is an environmental double whammy — plastic is traditionally made from unsustainable petrochemicals, and is non-biodegradable, thus contributing to the global waste problem. Recently, scientists have found that chitin from seafood waste can be used to make chitin nanofibrils, a potential bio-based polymer. The particular chemical structure of chitin nanofibrils tends to combine with many active components normally used in cosmetics, both hydro or liposoluble.
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The EU-funded N-CHITOPACK project aims to use chitin nanofibrils to produce antibacterial bioplastics for food packaging and rigid packaging to be used in the food industry. This new kind of plastic is 100% biodegradable and demonstrates higher mechanical strength as well as increased UV and heat resistance.The project will produce materials for three different applications: coffee capsules, food bags and packaging films.Much of the rest of the project has focused on technical analysis of chitin nanofibrils and chitosan.
If one day the chitin nanofibrils are adopted for making plastic, this will result in less waste, both for the seafood industry and the packaging industry, and improved economic and environmental impact.