Featured image for British Grocer Waitrose And Biotech Company Developing Packaging From Langoustine Shells

British Grocer Waitrose And Biotech Company Developing Packaging From Langoustine Shells

by Rudy Sanchez on 04/11/2019 | 2 Minute Read

Waitrose, the British supermarket chain, and supplier of groceries to Queen Elizabeth II by royal warrant, is partnering with Scottish biotech company CuanTec to develop a new and sustainable alternative to plastic film for seafood packaging...out of seafood.

CuanTec takes discarded langoustine shells and processes them to create chitin, a cellulose-type substance that can be used to produce a cling film that can substitute for plastic. Langoustines are a relative of the much more familiar lobster, and they’re harvested off Scottish shores.

Chitin isn’t only found in langoustine shells, other crustaceans like lobsters and even insects produce exoskeletons which contain the substance responsible for the armor-like toughness of these creatures’ shells. Chitin-based plastic is non-toxic and fully biodegradable.

Startup CuanTec and Waitrose aren’t the first to explore chitin’s potential as a plastic alternative. Researchers in McGill recently have found a way to effectively process lobster shells and make chitin-based plastic for use in biomedical applications.

The grocer discovered CuanTec as part of its JLAB incubator program, and they see potential in the shellfish-derived packaging still in its experimental phase, hoping that it will be something they can as packaging in the next 12-18 months.

“While we are still at an experimental stage, the potential for this new packaging material is incredibly exciting,”  said Waitrose & Partners packaging manager Karen Graley in a press release.

“Conventional plastic films can’t currently be recycled, reused or composted,” she added, “so finding an alternative which doesn’t go into landfill would be very significant in helping us reach our target of ensuring that all own label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.”