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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