Bioplastics from shrimp shells

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TVU – Turning shrimp shells into bioplastics, Nguyen Phuong Khanh, a student of Applied Chemistry at Tra Vinh University, created safe and environmentally friendly bioplastic products.

Living in a shrimp farming area of Tra Vinh province, Khanh realized that shrimp shells are often thrown away or burned and cause environmental pollution. Therefore, he came up with the idea of turning them into bioplastics. “There is usually a sludge suction system under a pond, so when shrimps molt, the old shrimp shells become waste. The old shells accumulate and cause pollution. After studying materials and documents, I was determined to research and make bioplastics,” Khanh said.

Khanh started researching and formed a team of 3 members to develop products in 2019. By June 2020, he completed the prototype and took it to the University’s startup competition

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After a difficult time struggling to find machines, raw materials, and processing places, Khanh finally finished his products and made bioplastic products such as cups, plates, bowls, chopsticks, and spoons. The production process is very complicated. After collection, the shrimp shells are processed to remove impurities, purified, and chemicals are added to remove properties in shrimp shells. The obtained raw materials are then mixed with other additives, put in a machine to extrude the liquid, and put into the mold.

About 100 grams of raw materials including shrimp shells and other additives will produce 10 plastic cups. In the finished product, shrimp shell accounts for 65%, and the rest are plastic substances, pigments, and plasticizers. Therefore, it is safe and environmentally friendly. According to Khanh, mixing is the most difficult stage, because the number of additives needs to be well-calculated to achieve the desired parameters

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The advantage of the product is that it decomposes quickly in the natural environment, taking only 1 to 1.5 years to completely decompose, contributing to solving the seafood byproducts and environmental pollution; increasing the value of the aquaculture industry, improving people’s incomes. In particular, bioplastic products recycled from seafood waste will not create microplastics like primary plastic when decomposed.

Bioplastic products are of natural origin, so they are environmentally friendly and safe for human health. The project’s targets in the near future are some bioplastic products such as spoons, chopsticks, straws, etc. In particular, the group will focus on high-value products such as shoe soles, children’s utensils, and medical equipment.

Currently, Khanh’s bioplastic products have been ordered and purchased in large quantities. In the near future, Khanh will continue to develop and invest in mass production. Thanks to the environmentally friendly products, Khanh’s startup idea won the second prize of the Hult Prize competition in Southeast Asia in 2020.

Lan Anh