Although the Easter season has come and gone, The Food and Drink iNet is hatching plans (no pun intended) to research the extract materials from egg shells to find useful ways to recycle them after they have been used.

The study is part of a research project by The Food and Drink iNet, which is based at Southglad Food Park, Nottingham, UK, along with a group of advisers from across the UK and including Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham.

University of Leicester scientists in the Department of Chemistry that specialize in ‘green chemistry’ and sustainable materials are looking for new ways to extract the glycosaminoglycans [GAGs] proteins found in egg shells. Many biomedical applications use GAG and they could prove to be beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry.

One way the team hopes to use the egg shells is to use them as fillers to bulk up different kinds of plastic.

But overall, the goal is to use egg shells in packaging to protect egg products. According to iNet this type of recycling gives a second lease of life to the egg shell in the very role it was created for and makes this a true case of recycling.

“Egg shell 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. He then adds: “The scientists at the University of Leicester have identified a number of uses for egg shell waste and the Food and Drink iNet is very pleased to support a ‘Collaborate to Innovate’ research project to examine egg shell recycling solutions. This could have potential benefit on many levels, both for food manufacturers and a much wider industry.”

So where are all these eggs coming from?

The project plans to get egg-related companies in the area to help out by giving the team small and medium-sized eggs.

One company, Just Egg, a hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise manufacturer uses around 1.3 million eggs every week. Those 1.3 million eggs create about 10 tons of egg shells. The cost of sending about 480 tons of shells to the landfill adds up and costs the firm about £30,000

Managing director Pankaj Pancholi said the research could bring big benefits to the food and drink sector.

“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,” he said. “It would be great if the egg shells could ultimately be recycled to be used in the plastic packaging that we use for egg products, like our new hard boiled eggs in packs. This is a really exciting project.”

Farmers Weekly adds:

“The iNet-funded project aims to develop and validate the pre-treatment process of the eggshell needed to make it sterile; develop a method for the extraction of glycosaminoglycans from eggshell and analyze the products obtained; develop a post-treatment process to convert the eggshell into a starch-based plastic; test the mechanical properties, including the strength of the new material and make a variety of materials to optimize the eggshell loading and particle size.”

Source: Farmers Weekly