Making ecofriendly plastic packaging from shrimp waste

  • By Lichelle Carlos
  • 28 April 2023

Researchers at the University of San Carlos (USC) turned shrimp waste into bioplastic with potential use for packaging. The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), through its Grants for Research toward Agriculture and Innovative Solutions (GRAINS), supported the USC project to create biodegradable plastic out of chitosan—a material extracted from shrimp shells.

The grant was awarded in 2022 to the Cebu-based USC team of Dr. Maria Kristina Paler. She shared that the development of chitosan-based bioplastic aimed to help lessen the massive waste from nonbiodegradable plastics and the shrimp industry. Her team explained that processing frozen shrimp meat for export creates tons of waste in the form of shrimp heads and shells, which are disposed of at local landfills for a fee. The team also reported that the Philippines is among the top contributors of plastic waste in the marine ecosystem. 

The research team identified industry requirements for packaging materials, such as barrier properties for shelf-life preservation, film printability, lamination with good strength, and heat-sealing properties. Chitosan films with organic or clay nanofillers were created, tested, and found to have a potential for single-use plastic cover. The team recommended other additives to make the current prototypes heat-sealable.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio commended the project team for seeking solutions to transform industries affecting the agriculture sector. He added that “innovations, which aim to reduce waste and protect our planet, are critical toward achieving sustainable production and consumption.”

The next step is to widen the potential use of chitosan-based film for industrial applications by improving its thermoplastic property. The USC project team submitted its findings for publication to urge further support and collaboration in developing ecofriendly packaging.

Creating chitosan-based bioplastic films from shrimp waste materialsCreating chitosan-based bioplastic films from shrimp waste materials