Maine professor develops new way to reuse lobster shells
One of Maine’s top seafoods has a new purpose. Although lobster - a well-known state attraction - is certainly delicious, its shell produces a lot of waste. Most of lobster waste is put in landfills.
Members of the industry have long been trying to develop a new way to reuse the crustacean’s shell.
Recently, innovative entrepreneurs have started thinking of ideas on how to recycle lobster shells, which are in abundance in the Pine Tree State.
David Neivandt, a University of Maine professor of chemical and biological engineering, has developed a creative way to reuse the waste. He has designed an eco-friendly golf ball made primarily from recycled shells.
The original idea for a lobster golf ball came from Carin Poeschel Orr, who is a former University of Maine student. She graduated from the University with a master’s degree in marine bioresources.
Neivandt has also created plant pots out of reused lobster shells.
“Instead of dumping the shells at landfills, the idea is to add value to the product, which hopefully will funnel back into the industry,” Neivandt said in a press release.
Neivandt’s company crushes the old lobster shells into a paste and then mixing them with a biodegradable binder and coating is used to make the golf balls. Unfortunately, for true lobster aficionados, the balls are not colored the signature lobster red; they are simply white.
“It had to perform like a golf ball, fly like a golf ball and sound like one when you hit it,” Neivandt said in a press release. “Plus, in our case, it also had to biograde.”
In comparison to the standard product, the University of Maine golf balls are sold for only $0.19 each.
Other biodegradable golf balls often sell for a higher price: approximately one dollar a piece. The lobster golf ball is the same size and shape as a standard ball.
The majority of golfers who have tested the new balls have given them their sign of approval. However, while they travel a comparable distance to other biodegradable golf balls, they do travel less than a standard golf ball.
Under state law, it is illegal to intentionally hit golf balls into the sea because they do not degrade and thus serve as another form of pollution. Neivandt’s lobster golf balls are a great solution to this challenge as they dissolve in three weeks.
The reuse of lobster shells and other crustacean shells, instead of adding them to landfills, is also beneficial to the seafood industry.
“The whole idea is to add value to our lobster,” Bob Bayer, director of the Lobster Institute, an organization for research and education at the University of Maine, said in a press release.
“The more value we can extract, the more fishermen will be paid and more jobs will be created.”
Other companies throughout Maine have also started making products using recycled lobster shells.
EcoSeaTile LLC of Mount Desert is designing bathroom and kitchen tiles made of recycled lobster, mussel, clam, oyster and scallop shells. Most recently, they developed a line of drinking coasters made primarily of recycled crustacean shells.
Mickey Shattow, owner of EcoSeaTile, said that her company’s products are some of the most popular among coastal Maine residents.
The lobster golf ball will sold commercially later this year.