Plastic to be replaced by crab shells and trees?

An eco-friendly material made from crab shells and trees could replace plastic food packaging, according to US researchers. Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a material derived from crab shells and tree fibres that has the potential to replace the flexible plastic packaging used to keep food fresh.

The materials are two of the most common natural biopolymers — cellulose, which comes from plants, is the most common, followed by chitin, which is found in shellfish, insects and fungi. It is made by spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees. The research comes at a time when the market for consumer products made of sustainable and renewable resources is increasingly growing.

Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said, “We had been looking at cellulose nanocrystals for several years and exploring ways to improve those for use in lightweight composites as well as food packaging, because of the huge market opportunity for renewable and compostable packaging, and how important food packaging overall is going to be as the population continues to grow”.

However, more work needs to be done before the material can be used including lowering its costs.