Seafood Waste Could be the Antimicrobial Packaging Alternative to Replace Fossil Fuels

Atlantic Canada has been faced with a significant challenge in dealing with seafood by-products and waste in a more sustainable way. Nova Scotia-based Copol International Ltd. has set out to solve this problem while tackling another – greener packaging that does not rely on fossil-fuel-based ingredients.

The company is a leading manufacturer of cast polypropylene films for the flexible packaging industry. A team-up with Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment will bring a solution to benefit both industries. The project is part of the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) Emerging Science Research Cluster.

The idea? 

The use of lobster shells left over from processing to create a biopolymer that can be incorporated into environmentally friendly packaging with antimicrobial properties. The use of shells will help to reduce food waste, repurposing the shells for a useful purpose and limiting the need for fossil fuels.

“For us, it’s really all about sustainability and being able to bring the plastics industry and our product – used mainly in produce and bakery items to enhance presentation and extend shelf-life – forward to both prevent food waste and to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment,” says Denis Lanoë of Copol International. “Plastic has a role to play; our customers and their customers want to be sustainable, so we want to be able to help with that and come up with a better solution moving forward.”

Currently, lobster shells and other seafood waste by-products are directed towards landfills despite their nutrient-rich compounds. Through a green chemistry approach, the interesting compounds can be extracted and evaluated to identify what benefits they might provide. 

Through this process, the team has developed a biopolymer using lobster shells and other waste which can be used as an additive on existing film or to extend the shelf-life of fresh produce and bakery items. It can also be used to replace existing fossil-based polypropylene used in packaging film.

The antioxidant properties of the fish peptides identified by the research team at the Verschuren Centre could also be incorporated into beverages and other food applications. A final step in the project involves testing them with dairy products like cheese to determine their suitability for use in dairy products.

This type of solution introduces a circular economy approach to repurpose marine waste while meeting sustainability options in packaging. Since everything is locally sourced, this has the potential to create a biopolymer industry based right in Nova Scotia.

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