Scientists and food industry experts in the UK are hatching a plan to turn egg shells into plastics that could be used to manufacture anything from food packaging to construction materials. They also hope to extract material from egg shells that may prove valuable in the pharmaceutical industry.
The Food and Drink iNet is funding a research project at the University of Leicester which is looking at eggs and egg shells in a new light. The project aims to find useful ways of recycling egg shells which are currently regarded as waste by food producers and which they have to pay to dispose of in landfill. The Food and Drink iNet coordinates specialist support to stimulate innovation in the food and drink sector to increase competitiveness, sustainability and growth.
Scientists in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester, specialising in ‘green chemistry’ and sustainable materials are looking at how to extract glycosaminoglycans, proteins which are found in egg shells. GAGs are used in numerous biomedical applications and could prove useful in the pharmaceutical industry.
They are also hoping to identify ways to use the egg shells as fillers which could be used to ‘bulk up’ different grades of plastic, with all sorts of applications from ready meal food trays to shop fittings. The ultimate goal is to use the egg shells in packaging to protect egg products – giving a second lease of life to the egg shell in the very role it was created for – a true case of recycling.