Researchers turn black soldier flies into degradable bioplastics

Researchers turn black soldier flies into degradable bioplastics

Sustainability

Texas A&M University scientists have developed an innovative method to produce degradable bioplastics using chitin extracted from black soldier fly carcasses.

This groundbreaking solution, presented at the ACS Fall 2023 meeting, taps into waste products from black soldier flies, avoiding competition with other applications. While black soldier fly larvae serve purposes like animal feed and waste disposal, adult flies have a short lifespan after breeding.

Led by Principal Investigator Karen Wooley, Ph.D., the research harnesses the high chitin content in these carcasses. Chitin is a biodegradable sugar-based polymer found in insect and crustacean exoskeletons.

Unlike traditional sources like shrimp and crab shells, which have multiple competing applications, the utilisation of adult flies exclusively for chitin extraction ensures no interference with other industries like animal feed.

Black soldier fly credit Judy Gallagher
Black soldier fly © Judy Gallagher (CC BY 2.0)


This breakthrough could 'pave the way for more sustainable bioplastic production' and 'will not contribute to the plastic pollution problem'.

Wooley said: Ultimately, we’d like the insects to eat the waste plastic as their food source, and then we would harvest them again and collect their components to make new plastics. So the insects would not only be the source, but they would also then consume the discarded plastics.

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