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CHITIN-BASED DEGRADABLE DRINKING CUP

Chitin-based drinking cup contains built-in dry enzyme which decomposes chitin into benign soluble chitosan upon exposure to moisture.

Photo of Gary Abramov
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Idea Title

Idea Summary

A drinking cup made of chitin which is degradable by the built-in enzymes, when exposed to external aqueous substances. Holds beverages indefinitely prior to exposure.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Pacific Blue Innovations, LLC

A patent-pending drinking cup made of chitin is described. The inner chitin surface of the cup is impervious to water- and oil-based content. The cup on it outer surface contains desiccated (‘lyophilized’) enzymes, which, when activated by a contact with an ambient water decompose chitin into chitosan, a water-soluble substance, and thus degrade the container. Enzymes are protected from premature activation by special enzyme-containing compartments design and, optionally, via water ingress retarding means.

      Items made of chitin, in the absence of degrading enzymes are water- and oil-resistant virtually indefinitely. Chitosan, on the other hand, is water-soluble, environmentally benign and advantageously used in wide-ranging industrial, medical, biochemical and agricultural applications.

Chitin is widely available a a waste product of shrimping industry.

Per US Dept. of Commerce, in 1973 alone there were 1.5 million tons of chitin produced as waste from shellfish processing. The chitinous solid waste from shrimping operations in India alone amounted to 80,000 tons in 2004.

The degrading enzymes (chitilases) are widely commercially available.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup

How is your concept recoverable?

The base material, chitin, is decomposed into an environmentally-friendly chitosan, which has wide application in agriculture, medicine and pharmacology. Chitin, being a by-product of shrimping industry is both plentiful, inexpensive and renewable.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

Our patent-pending solution utilizes an inexpensive renewable material (chitin) which at present is largely wasted. The end product of the base material degradation is an environmentally-friendly chitosan with potentially numerous market applications.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

Worldwide

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Retail food and beverage establishments. The technology can also be used in commercial food packaging, containers and such. It also can be used in a sheet form to make disposable waterproof covers.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

Finding funding sources

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Supply Chain
  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling
  • Fundraising / Finance

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

Small business specializing in technology development. One PhD-level biochemical scientist, one PhD-level chemical engineer, several mechanical engineers. Total 100+ years of experience in divers fields.

In what city are you located?

Vista, California: North San Diego County, USA

In what country are you located?

USA

What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

LLC

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

This concept has major implications: it utilizes a present waste material and converts it into a degradable useful article, which degrades into a valuable material as well.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Direct email invitation

2 comments

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Photo of Gary Abramov
Team

It's hard to predict the cost of the finished article at this point. The starting material is a waste product of the shrimping industry (about 4 mil tons a year), but it has to be purified to make it food-safe. Also, there are mass fabrication processes that have to be developed, and chitin is not the easiest material to process (vs. plastics). The chitinases (chitin-degrading enzymes) are commercially available, but not in the required mass quantities (tons). So, there's a fair amount of commercialization/productization work to be done. However, the world-wide demand for this technology (it can be used for other degradable packaging as well) is huge, and the manufacturing costs will be a strong function of the production volumes. The nearest example of this is aluminum: 150 years ago it cost more than platinum. Now, we are wrapping sandwiches in it.

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