Lobster bisque and shrimp cocktail make for scrumptious meals, but at a price. The food industry generates 6 million to 8 million metric tons of crab, shrimp and lobster shell waste every year. Depending on the country, those claws and legs largely get dumped back into the ocean or into landfills. In many of those same landfills, plastic trash relentlessly accumulates. Some scientists think it’s possible to tackle the two problems at once.
Chemist Audrey Moores’ team at McGill University in Montreal published a patent-pending approach to minimizing use of water, or any liquid, online on March 26 in Green Chemistry. Moores’ research assistant Thomas Di Nardo takes shell powder from crustaceans or insects and pounds it with a ceramic ball inside a mechanical mill. This step loosens the hydrogen bonds between chitin’s many chains. Scientists call this approach mechanochemistry.