Happy Easter everyone! As the bank holiday draws near we thought we’d leave you with a little seasonal news about how egg shells are being investigated as a new material for, um, protecting eggs. I think the phrase here is meta.

Eggs!

So yes, egg shells surround the egg, either protecting a growing chick embryo or the makings of a yummy breakfast, but they aren’t all that great. After all, we don’t buy eggs and just chuck them in our shopping bags without the protection of an egg box do we? Egg shells are brittle – they’re mainly calcium carbonate held together with a protein matrix, but it’s the starch within the shells that’s relevant for our tale today. The University of Leicester, and more particularly Andrew Abbott’s group of chemists, are now investigating how to extract the glycosaminoglycans in the shells and turn them into starch-based plastics.

Abbott has already created starch based plastics using salts as plasticisers that break up the hydrogen bonding between the glucose rings. So it’s likely that something similar will be used on the extracted glycosaminoglycans.

And why egg shells? Well, because the food industry uses millions of eggs and creates tonnes and tonnes of waste in the form of egg shells. Leicester firm Just Egg, for example, sends about 480 tonnes of egg shells to landfill every year, at a cost of around £30,000. So saving money and reducing oil based plastic consumption sounds like a doubly good idea. The ultimate in recycling – turning eggs’ protective shells into protective packaging for eggs.

Mumble mumble, reborn, mumble mumble…

Laura Howes


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