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Oceans and fisheries
News article21 December 2020Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries2 min read

Circular economy: From seafood waste to sustainable packaging

Quality packaging is essential to the shelf life of seafood products. Today, the bulk of packaging is made from single-use plastics, thus representing a big source of pollution. The food processing industry is therefore looking for sustainable alternatives, and the EU-funded FISH4FISH project is part of the solution.

The seafood processing industry needs to improve marketability and to extend the shelf-life of fresh fish, caught or farmed. The traditional solution has been plastics. At the same time, the industry produces over 10,000 tons/year of shellfish waste, which largely go to, well, waste. But shellfish waste, specifically crustacean shells and squid feathers, is rich in chitin, the material from which valuable packaging compounds can be produced.

The EU-funded FISH4FISH project closes the circle between waste and consumption. FISH4FISH has achieved a breakthrough developing a novel active polymeric material based on chitin from crustaceans combined with lignin waste. Such material combines sustainability, safety, antioxidant and antimicrobial effect, UV-shielding and improved mechanical properties, easy biodegradability and compostability. It is a technically and economically viable material.

The project objective is the production of film and trays prototypes for the fish packaging sector. Such packaging enhances shelf-life and, once it is has been used, it could be processed completely in a home composting system and used as fertilizer and microbial preservatives for plants.

FISH4FISH is set up by a consortium of six Spanish and Italian partners from both the academic world and business. The coordinator of the project, Rebecca Pogni, Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Siena, sees great perspectives for this new material: “The market and consumers are ready for a new generation of active food packaging to enhance the shelf-life of food and to reduce the use of plastics, with benefits for environment and economy”. While food packaging is the primary objective of FISH4FISH, the bio-based polymers produced are potentially exploitable for an extremely wide range of other industries.

The EU’s funding to the FISH4FISH project is a very tangible contribution to Europe’s circular and blue economy. It has helped ensuring that renewable resources are exploited in a sustainable manner, promoting bio-based, environmentally friendly and beneficial technologies, which create high-performing materials for a wide range of applications. The innovative materials add new value to the fish-waste industry whilst enhancing the competitiveness of the fish-processing industry. Thanks to the prolongation of the storage time and the significant reduction in food waste, it also benefits the food retailer sector. The project boosts the bio-based sector, introducing a material, which could tackle an environmental problem, and it actively contributes to the reduction of plastic pollution in thes sea.

Did you like this story?

Then also check out the December Euronews Ocean episode on sustainable aquaculture

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Publication date
21 December 2020
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries