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Flour, cheese and old shrimp shells become new packaging


Imagine throwing out your old shrimp shells after dinner--in a bag made of shrimp shells. In his doctoral dissertation, Mikael Gällstedt at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden describes how we can make environmentally friendly packing out of garbage.

The number of grocery packages is constantly growing. Most packages are made of plastic, which both adds to the mountains of waste and uses oil reserves. There are good reasons to look for smart, environmentally friendly alternatives.

Mikael Gällstedt has studied three organic materials and examined how they could be adapted to function as packaging material:

  • Chitosan, a substance extracted from the shells of insects and crustaceans.
  • Wheat gluten, attained after removing the starch in flour. Wheat gluten is a common by-product in ethanol production.

  • Whey, a common by-product of cheese-making.

Mikael has managed to make the materials impermeable to oxygen but thus far not to all liquids. In that case, the structure of the materials must be able to withstand higher pressure, but he believes he will soon be able to solve this problem.

“With a little more research, these three materials should be perfectly suitable for various types of packaging. It should be possible to make bags for chips, juice tetrapaks, bags for powders and sauces. Many packages today use some form of aluminum layer.”

Mikael has carried part of his research at Korea University, and he says that there was a great deal of interest among Asians.

“In several countries people live very close to each other and have major problems with waste disposal. These biological materials can be composted or burned for energy production, both environmentally friendly methods. We make use of garbage that otherwise would have simply been thrown away. It should even be possible to make them edible.”

The title of the dissertation is Films and composites based on chitosan, wheat gluten or whey proteins--Their packaging related mechanical and barrier properties.

Mikael Gällstedt is a doctoral student at the Royal Institute of Technology, Fiber and Polymer Technology. His research is commissioned by STFI-Packforsk, a center for research and development of fibers, packaging, and printing, a research institute funded by the industry, Vinnova, IRECO, and the EU.

Jacob Seth-Fransson | alfa
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