CEBU CITY — University of San Carlos (USC) researchers have developed a potential solution to lessen the massive waste from nonbiodegradable plastics by turning shrimp waste into bioplastic with potential use for packaging.
The project was supported by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) through its Grants for Research toward Agriculture and Innovative Solutions (GRAINS). 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 in the form of shrimp heads and shells, which are disposed of at local landfills for a fee. They also reported that the Philippines is among the top contributors of plastic waste in the marine ecosystem.
To address this issue, Dr. 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.
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.
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,” Gregorio said.
The USC project team submitted its findings for publication to encourage further support and collaboration in developing ecofriendly packaging.
“This breakthrough could help reduce plastic waste from the shrimp industry and contribute to a cleaner environment,” Gregorio affirmed.