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Georgia Tech Uses Crabs, Trees to Create New Plastic Wrap

Dozens of cities like San Francisco and companies like Starbucks are looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic going to landfills. Just one example is the recent surge in bans on plastic straws.

To meet some of this demand for renewable packaging, researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a new kind of packaging made of tree fibers and crab shells.

At Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering building, professor Carson Meredith is holding something that looks like plastic.

The thin film is made by spraying two things together in water: cellulose nanocrystals, tiny particles extracted from deep within the cell walls of plants or trees, and something called chitin, found in the outer shells of seafood like crabs and shrimp.

"Our working theory was we could spray these together and have them aggregate to some extent because positive and negative are attracted, and that might lead to forming nice interfaces that would then be good barriers to oxygen, and that is a key characteristic of packaging, especially for food," Meredith said. 

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