Plastic has to be one of the least environmentally-friendly materials around. This is because they take forever before they can be broken down naturally, and given that they aren’t as durable compared to other materials like metal, they are easily and frequently discarded when they are no longer in use, like plastic boxes, bags, wrappings, and so on.
We’ve been seeing all kinds of efforts and initiatives to try and reduce plastic waste, find ways to break them down faster, or find alternatives. The good news is that over in Singapore, researchers working at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have discovered a possible alternative to plastic that uses discarded shellfish shells and fruits.
This came about as the researchers were trying to create chitin, a food thickener/stabilizer and also used in antimicrobial food packaging. According to Professor William Chen, the lead researcher, “The huge amount of shrimp waste has sparked industrial interest as it is an abundant source of chitin. However, there is a problem in the extraction method, which is both unsustainable and harmful to the environment.”
“Our new method takes crustacean waste and discarded fruit waste and uses natural fermentation processes to extract chitin. This is not only cost-effective, but also environmentally-friendly and sustainable, and helps to reduce overall waste.” In addition to potentially creating an alternative to plastic, the researchers found that the chitin when undergoing further stages of fermentation, could also be used as a growth enhancer in plant fertilizers and also as a controlled drug delivery system in pharmaceutical treatments.