Wrapping food in plastic does serve a purpose. A plastic-wrapped cucumber at a supermarket may seem egregious, but the vegetable lasts longer and is less likely to end up as food waste; throwing out food can have an even bigger impact on the environment than the plastic itself.
But the system’s reliance on plastic in its current form can’t last. In a year, the world uses more than 160 million tons of plastic food packaging made from fossil fuels, little of which is recycled.
In a lab at a Scottish startup, researchers are turning waste from the seafood industry into a new kind of plastic wrap that can safely go in your compost bin. The startup, which goes by the name CuanTec, is developing fully compostable, antimicrobial food packaging which looks and feels like the petroleum plastic version. The only difference is that it’s made out of shellfish shells that are leftover from seafood production.
The company has prototypes of the film now, and it’s in the process of finalizing a round of financing that will allow it to finish development, step through the regulatory hurdles for food packaging, and then scale up. Supermarkets like UK-based Waitrose are already interested in using the product. They’re likely to begin with a plastic wrap for salmon, creating a circular loop in the seafood industry.