Shelling Out Shellfish Shells: One Industry’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

There's money in shellfish waste -- or at least a better waste management strategy for it -- and we might be tapping into it soon enough.

As it stands, massive quantities of waste generated from shellfish processing activities in Bay de Verde are simply carted to a landfill and tossed away like trash. But it turns out there’s gold, or at least a better waste management strategy, in the crustacean processing byproducts we’re throwing away.

Material like shrimp heads, the shells from shrimp tails, and both hardshell and softshell crab and lobster waste aren’t waste at all. If you run these items through a press, and dry it with heat, to knock out water, and you end up with an end product that is: 51% calcium, 30% protein, and 17% chiten. All useful things.

Protein can be used in animal feeds, calcium in many things, and chitin (the main part of a crustacean’s shell, which is easily converted into chitosan) has multiple potential uses. Scientists in the food industry can easily add enzymes to chitosan to create a thickening agent with uses in industries as diverse as paint manufacturing, food, and cosmetics.

Chitosan is also sold as a dietary supplement — people use it to basically suck up fat into their stomach so it’s excreted, leading, supposedly, to weight loss (there is no hard evidence for this, yet there is a pharmaceutical market for chitosan to be sold into).

Tampa Bay Fisheries, for example, dries shrimp tails and sell them as an additive to cattle and poultry feed. Other uses include a small market for pet fish food, or for farmed salmon (chitosan naturally adds additional red colour to the meat). Lobster Unlimited in Maine use chitosan to produce a soil quality enhancer.

While there’s no talk so far of what they intend to do with the shellfish processing byproduct, Quinlan Brothers Limited in Bay de Verde is proposing the development of a shell byproduct drying facility in an effort to deal with the massive amount of shellfish processing waste we’re simply tossing into landfills.

Their new facility would be constructed off Main Road, which is along the same route currently being used to transport shell waste to the landfill. Shell waste from the local plant will be transported to the facility for processing without the use of any chemicals and the packaged product will be shipped to market.

Air emissions will be steam from the drying process, and small amounts of water from the washing process will be diverted to a septic system. If it passes some environmental testing, construction is expected to commence late Fall 2015.

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