USC project turns shrimp waste into bioplastic

Shrimp waste was turned into bioplastic for packaging and could be a potential solution to lessen the massive waste from nonbiodegradable plastics. 

University of San Carlos (USC) researchers have developed the bioplastic with support from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture through the latter’s Grants for Research toward Agriculture and Innovative Solutions, said a SEARCA news release.

The grant was awarded in 2022 to the project team led by Dr. Maria Kristina Paler.

According to the team, processing frozen shrimp meat for export generates tons of waste composed of shrimp heads and shells, which are disposed of at local landfills for a fee.

The team reported that the Philippines is among the top contributors of plastic waste in the marine ecosystem.

To address this issue, Paler and her 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.

The team created chitosan films with organic or clay nanofillers, which were tested and found to have potential for single-use plastic cover, SEARCA said.

Chitosan is a linear polysaccharide composed of randomly distributed β-linked D-glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine. It is made by treating the chitin shells of shrimp and other crustaceans with an alkaline substance, such as sodium hydroxide. It has a number of commercial and possible biomedical uses, web information said.

Chitosan is used as medicine and in drug manufacturing. It is a fibrous substance that might reduce how much fat and cholesterol the body absorbs from foods. It also helps blood clot when applied to wounds, WebMd. 

Moreover, the team recommended other additives to make the current prototypes heat-sealable.

 SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio commended the USC project team for seeking solutions to transform industries affecting the agriculture sector.

“Innovations, which aim to reduce waste and protect our planet, are critical toward achieving sustainable production and consumption,” Gregorio said.

“The next step is to widen the potential use of chitosan-based film for industrial applications by improving its thermoplastic property,” he added.

The USC project team submitted its findings for publication to encourage further support and collaboration in developing eco-friendly packaging.

 “This breakthrough could help reduce plastic waste from the shrimp industry and contribute to a cleaner environment,” Gregorio affirmed.