Everyone is aware of the extreme plastic problem facing our world today. Landfills are overflowing and as a consequence, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.
In Europe and the UK, countless efforts are being put into tackling this ever-growing problem. We have seen the introduction of the 10p tax on bags for life in order to encourage reuse, plastic straws are on the way out and the market for reusable water bottles is booming. Despite these great efforts and more, it is not always feasible to reuse plastic in certain situations.
In May of this year, there was a debate in the House of Commons where the output was ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’ and within this, one of the key goals is to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. This, together with various media campaigns such as that from national treasure David Attenborough, is putting pressure on industries to find sustainable solutions.
At the Energy, engineering and environment workshop, reducing plastic waste was an underlying theme that many participants were aiming to tackle, myself included. Therefore, we were thrilled when we found out that Dr Cait Murray-Green was one of the keynote speakers invited to talk about her company CuanTec.
CuanTec are a company dedicated to finding solutions to two of the greatest challenges facing today’s world: plastic pollution and food waste.
Their novel processes takes langoustine shells, a waste product in fisheries, and ferment it to extract chitin, a polymer which can be moulded into plastic.
One of the extra benefits of this technology is the anti-microbial properties, thus making it an ideal material for food packaging. Of course the main benefit is that this plastic is compostable providing a novel alternative to current cling film.
I entered the competition with my friend and colleague Niamh McCallum (University of Liverpool) and two people she met through a conference ran by the BBSRC, Bethany Gollan (University of Newcastle) and Daniel Bruce (University of Durham).
We had noticed that despite the pressure on most industry sectors to find sustainable solutions to the plastic problem, there is no accountability in the research sector.
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