langoustine Waitrose

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The shells created from seafood processing can be used to make a natural polymer

Waitrose has teamed up with a biotech company to create packaging made from waste langoustine shells.

The retailer has partnered with Cuan Tec, which uses the shells created from seafood processing to make a natural polymer. This can then be turned into a flexible film.

Waitrose is hoping to use the packaging as an alternative to conventional plastic film on some of its fish products in 12 to 18 months’ time.

The material, which is at the experimental stage at the moment, also has the potential to be both industrially and home compostable.

Cuan Tec and Waitrose began working together through the John Lewis Partnership’s JLab startup programme, which the biotech company entered in 2018.

It was among the products and innovations shown to Prince Charles as he officially opened Waitrose’s food innovation studio at its Bracknell, Berkshire HQ on 5 April.

The Prince of Wales established Waitrose’s Duchy Originals brand 29 years ago.

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“While we are still at an experimental stage, the potential for this new packaging material is incredibly exciting,” said Waitrose packaging manager Karen Graley. “Conventional plastic films can’t currently be recycled, reused or composted - so finding an alternative which doesn’t go into landfill would be very significant in helping us reach our target of ensuring that all own label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.”

Cuan Tec CEO Dr Cait Murray-Green added: “As well as protecting food on sale to consumers, this technology gives value to what would have been a waste product and takes single-use plastic out of the food system, meaning that less waste goes to landfill.”

The initiative comes as part of Waitrose’s ongoing endeavour to become more environmentally friendly, which has seen it use vine leaves to make punnets for Waitrose Duchy tomatoes and encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers for products from its meat and fish counters.