Shrimp Shells As Biodegradable Bags? Could Be Solution to Plastic Bag Pollution

The latest news from the University of Nottingham is that scientists have found a way to use shrimp shells to make biodegradable plastic bags. I recently reported for Biofuels Digest’s NUU publication how researchers in Portugal are using shrimp and crab shells for biomedical devices, which sounded like a neat biomaterial solution for the medical community. But what about shrimp shells to replace plastic bags? I’ve been thinking alot about whether this is really a better option and it’s a tough one. Here are my thoughts on this:

Pros:

  • This development in using shrimp shells is specifically for use in Egypt where plastic pollution is a huge problem, especially plastic bags which are contaminating the water ways. This directly impacts the health of the people in Egypt.
  • It can replace the fossil fuel, oil based plastic bags now used so that if bags do get into the water ways as they have been doing, then at least now they will biodegrade and not cause any harm to the aquatic life or humans living near those water ways and drink, bathe, irrigate crops, and use that water.

Cons:

  • It’s not providing a solution for the root of the problem which is 1) why are so many plastic bags being used in the first place and why can’t reusuable bags be an option? 2) how to prevent any trash, even biodegradable plastic bags from getting into the waterways?
  • There are some unknown questions that I can’t seem to gather the answers from based on the article. For example,
    • Where will they get the shrimp shells from? The article makes it sounds like the shrimp shells are coming from waste that otherwise would be thrown away. I am not sure how much shrimp is raised, caught or processed in Egypt but if they can take something that would otherwise be thrown away, then great. But I would hope they wouldn’t purposefully be growing shrimp for their shells to make the bags with.
    • What additives are they using to bind the shells and make the bags? I would hope they aren’t adding some chemicals or toxins to bind the material and create the bags.

So while I really love the idea of a biodegradable plastic bag that won’t pollute waterways and will biodegrade quickly, I would need more information on the actual way the bags are produced and how they get the shrimp shells, if they are really eliminating a waste by using the shrimp shells, etc.

I can’t wait to hear more about it and see what other new bio-innovations are created to help solve our huge worldwide plastics problem!

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Cupcake Holder Dilemma

So I was at Aldi recently and had a hardcore life decision to make.

Yes, it was good vs. evil.

Angel vs. devil.

One side of my brain vs. the other side.

This was calling my name:

This is a cupcake holder.

Made of plastic.

It was $4.99 on clearance.

And calling my name…

As a Mom to two young kids where cupcakes are almost a monthly requirement for some sort of school event or fundraiser, I really could use this cupcake holder.  But it was plastic…made from non-recycled plastic and sure it had a recyclable triangle on the bottom which means at the end of it’s useful life it could be recycled technically, but I really had a hard time with this because I promised I would stop buying plastic.

That is much harder to do than I first thought.

So I ended up putting it back on the shelf and walking away from it.  I reminded myself that I have cupcake pans and pretty dishes and containers I can use to transport and display them.  I reminded myself that I also have muffin/cupcake tins that came with a plastic cover that I can use to transport them.  Sure they aren’t as pretty but hey, you just take the cupcakes out of the oven, decorate them and put the cover on and voila, you are good to go.

So even though I thought to myself “yeah, but this means I can make even MORE cupcakes for the fundraisers”, I reminded myself that sometimes less IS more.

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Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic

Many of you know I have an issue with plastic.  Anything with plastic.  Food containers, shower curtains, raincoats, shoes, disposable utensils, cell phones, appliances, my mouse, my laptop, paintbrushes, eyeglasses, hangers, prescription bottles, peanut butter jars, trash bags, water bottles, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, and yes, even balloons.  As much as I love them and my kids love them, I have a serious issue with balloons.

Some of these things you can recycle so they can made into “new” plastic things.  But many of them can’t be recycled or are simply so darn toxic (plastic #3 being the worst) that you don’t want them recycled and made into another toxic thing.  And remember, in the U.S. we still have a very low recycling rate (I think last I heard it was around 30% of all recyclable material was actually recycled by households?).

Now some of these things have non-plastic versions.  Like paintbrushes–many kinds out there are made with a wood handle and real boar’s hair bristles, not plastic.  Why am I ok with wood if a tree had to be cut down to make it?  Or a boar shaved of their hair for the bristles?  Because it’s about choosing the lesser of two evils.  Because trees can be replanted and hair regrown. Because both decompose and return to the earth if I put them in my compost pile or bury them in the back yard.  Because they aren’t toxic and don’t have BPA in it.

We are human beings who consume resources no matter how hard we try not to.  So when we need a paintbrush to express our inner artist, we make a choice. When we tell the carry out clerk “no thanks to plastic utensils” or the food court guy, “no thanks, I brought my own reusable utensils”, we make a choice.  When we go with the pretty fabric shower curtain liner instead of a PEVA toxic plastic liner, we make a choice.  When we donate our laptop or cell phone or used plastic eyeglasses to a charity instead of chucking it in the trash, we make a choice.

So what choice are you making today to make tomorrow better?

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