Could waste langoustine shells be used as a base material for plastic-free food packaging?
Over the next three years around 13 jobs are being created as part of a research project in Scotland biologically extracting a naturally occurring polymer, called chitin, from waste shells.
The Celtic Crustacean Collaboration - as it's being called - is being led by Argyll based firm CuanTec Limited working with the Scottish Association of Marine Science .
They are working with Versatile Packaging in the Republic of Ireland and with Northern Ireland firm Kilkeel Seafoods.
CuanTec's process is said to be 'environmentally sensitive, cost-efficient, requires less energy, and uses 95% fewer chemicals than conventional processes'.
The team leading the project say 'the resulting packaging material has natural food preserving properties and will be home compostable. It also has the ability to keep food fresh and potentially extend shelf life'.
The project will focus on the commercial viability of the product through 'developing industrial scale methods of extracting and converting the polymer from the shells and other food waste sources of chitin'.
It will further test the product against industry regulatory standards and end-user requirements and 'investigate other potential sources of the polymer'.
Funding has been made possible through Highland And Islands - an economic development agency for the north and west of Scotland - which is a delivery partner in the EU INTERREG VA funded Co-Innovate programme.
The €14.7 million programme – including €2.2m from Highland and Islands - supports innovation and cross-border research and development projects in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Confirming the Highland and Islands funding Gillian Galloway, head of innovation, said: “Plastic packaging is recognised as being at the root of a major waste pollution problem, particularly in the sea and around the coast.
"This highly innovative project has the potential to help address this issue through reducing the use of plastic.
"It will also help cut carbon emissions from the burning of un-recycled plastic waste.
"It is exciting to see this level of innovation being developed in Argyll and in such a collaborative fashion.
“We are very pleased to be able to support this initiative as part of the international Co-Innovate programme, and very much look forward to seeing the product move towards commercialisation.”
Doctor Tracy White, head of science at CuanTec, said: “We’re dedicated to developing solutions to the issue that single-use plastic is creating. I graduated from SAMS and I know, first-hand, the calibre of facilities and resources it offers to bio-tech businesses like ours.
"We’re confident we’re in the right place to make a significant contribution to this global challenge.”