Eggshells to have second life as packaging

Thursday, 12 April, 2012

Eggshells, the ultimate natural packaging, are generally seen by food processors as a waste product that costs money to dispose of in landfill. Researchers at the University of Leicester, together with the Food and Drink iNet, are exploring ways to recycle eggshells, potentially creating an income-generating product from costly waste for the industry.

“Eggshell is classified as a waste material by the food industry but is in fact a highly sophisticated composite,” said Food and Drink iNet Director Richard Worrall.

Researchers from the University of Leicester’s Department of Chemistry are researching ways to extract glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are proteins found in eggshells. They aim to use eggshells to ‘bulk up’ plastics used in applications from trays for ready meals to shop fittings. GAGs may also prove useful to the pharmaceutical industry.

What the researchers are really hoping for, however, is to recycle eggshells for use in packaging for egg products - a true case of recycling.

Leicester-based business Just Egg spends about £30,000 each year on disposing of its 480 tonnes of eggshell waste into landfill. “If I wasn’t spending the £30,000 a year on landfill costs I could employ another worker or two part-time workers, or invest that money in R&D and innovation,” said Pankaj Pancholi, Managing Director of Just Egg.

“It would be great if the eggshells could ultimately be recycled to be used in the plastic packaging that we use for egg products. This is a really exciting project.”

The project will involve companies from the East Midlands region, but could have a much larger impact if it’s successful. “This could have potential benefit on many levels, both for food manufacturers and a much wider industry,” said Worrall.

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