Here’s something to consider the next time you hit up the all you can eat fried shrimp trough at Golden Corral. It turns out the the shells you are tossing on the floor could help save the planet! A group of scientists in Egypt have figured out how to convert dried shrimp shells into a new form of biodegradable plastic.
It turns out that when you clean and chemically treat shrimp shells, they can then be ground them up and dissolve them in a solution that dries to form plastic. The key compound in the discovery is chitosan, the stuff that helps shellfish grow their shells.
The costs for sourcing materials for the plastic are cheap, as you can get all the shells from supermarkets, restaurants, and seafood processing facilities. Meanwhile, the impact on waste reduction is great. According to project researcher Hani Chbib, “Egypt imports some 3,500 metric tons of shrimp, and is left with 1,000 metric tons of shrimp shell waste. So the project could help alleviate waste and reduce plastic pollution.” As an added bonus, the new plastic, which is ideal for things like shopping bags, is completely biodegradable.
That being said, you’ve still got a while to go before shrimp plastic is a commercially available thing. The team is still working on ways to make it even more durable, and that could take a couple of years.