THE biotech firm pioneering a food wrap made from langoustine shells could be just months away from launching biodegradable beer packaging, it is claimed.

Scientists at CuanTec say they have worked out a way to create a compostable alternative to the plastic tape units used to hold cans of beer together for sale.

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The process also relies on substances extracted from shellfish waste discarded by the aquaculture industry.

The team, based near Motherwell, is already working with biopolymer chitin to create a sustainable alternative to plastic food wrap, as revealed by The National last year.

While this work continues, the firm – a spin-out from Strathclyde University – says a “stronger and more robust form” could be used to significantly slash the environmental impact of the brewing sector.

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It has partnered with craft beer firm Jaw Brew to create the new can connectors, and says success would turn the business “from a research company into a production company”.

The firm's CEO, Cait Murray-Green, said: “If we get the science right in the next six months, they could be available by the end of the year.

“We have done tests in our own lab and we reckon we’ve got strong ideas for formulation. We are pretty confident we can get that work out quite quickly.”

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A campaign has now been launched on to raise the £200,000 needed to bring in more staff and expand facilities to help develop a prototype for this and other projects, including an environmentally-friendly single-use plastic milk bottle.

Murray-Green said: “We have customers already lined up. Plastic pollution has hit the headlines and people are starting to realise that everything they do has an impact. We bring home more plastic than we do food, it’s ridiculous. Everything is packaged and wrapped in some form of it.

“We can’t change the food industry overnight, but at least we can make a contribution to stopping the damage that these choices have done.”

Reflecting on the company’s progress so far, she said: “We have moved from ‘isn’t this a good idea’ to ‘we are going to take over the world’.”

Mark Hazell of Jaw Brew said the project could aid his company’s expansion into key European markets.

He said: “We plan to expand and export. We want to ramp up our production considerably.

“Some countries would be more interested if we could present ourselves as a sustainable business, such as Germany and Scandinavia.”

The company currently uses standard plastic shrink wrap to package its wares, but Hazell says that this runs contrary to the company’s eco ethos.

This includes using unsold rolls from bakers Aulds to create its Hard Tack Blonde Beer to minimise food waste.

Production takes place at its base in Hillington industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow, where workers can make up to 3000 litres of beer per week.

Around 1000 cases are sold to the retail and bar trades every month.

He said: “Jaw Brew has a vision to make the brewing industry more sustainable and reduce the amount of non-compostable plastic material being thrown away.

“CuanTec can help to make that happen.”

Hazell told The National: “We have committed to the circular economy and we have already taken steps to reduce our carbon footprint.

“If can connectors can be made out of something good, it’s a no-brainer.”