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Sustainable technologies for the production of biodegradable materials based on natural chitin-nanofibrils derived by waste of fish industry, to produce food grade packaging (N-CHITOPACK)
Start date: Nov 1, 2012, End date: Oct 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The food sector (including beverage industry) accounts for approximately two thirds of global packaging and about 50% of these packages are made of plastics. Plastic food packaging materials currently in use are generally non-biodegradable causing ecological imbalance and aesthetic deterioration of nature. At the same time being a petro-chemical based product, plastics rely on a depleting and increasingly costly natural resource with relatively low LCA performance (high CO2 footprint).Food packaging – which is predominantly produced by SMEs - is crucial as physical and barrier protection keeping foodstuffs clean, fresh, and safe for consumers while increasing shelf life. Bio-based plastics offer a highly promising alternative and new biological materials are emerging as potential feedstock, such as chitin waste material from the fishing industry, mostly used in cosmetics applications due to their inherent bacteriostatic properties. Chitin waste exceeds 250 billion tons/year, and is considered hazardous due to its high perishability and polluting effect, both on land and sea. So re-use and up cycling to higher value applications would establish an important step forwards towards resource efficiency, providing a relevant innovation for the SME packaging industry that is under pressure to reduce cost and respond to environmental concerns. Recent research results at the University of Prague, leveraging on an SME owned world-wide patent (MAVI) for the production of chitin Nano fibrils, show interesting additional application opportunities of chitin as a bio-based polymer. The n-CHITOPACK project will leverage on the inherent superior properties of these chitin nano-fibrils for the development of new food packaging materials that are bacteriostatic, 100% bio-degradable and can be used by European packaging SMEs, contributing to increase their competitiveness in the market and to solving environmental challenges.
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