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Turkish researchers find way to use pesky sea lettuce in packaging



A team of Turkish researchers in Izmir has conducted research that suggests the use of sea lettuce as an alternative to plastic in the packaging industry.

Ulva lactuca, popularly known as “sea lettuce,” flourishes in İzmir Bay at certain times of the year, and it has now become the subject of scientific study. The project developed by the Sustainable Development Youth Leaders Training Program (SUGEP) Academy aims to utilize sea lettuce, which causes environmental pollution and odor, as a raw material in the packaging industry.

According to the project idea developed by young sustainability leaders trained at the SÜGEP Academy, ulva lactuca, one of the macroalgae whose population is increasing uncontrollably in İzmir Bay and causing environmental problems, will be an alternative raw material for the packaging industry.

Young people continue to work toward developing sustainable raw materials for packaging to counter the intense use of cellulose in the packaging industry. Project coordinators, who will carry out fieldwork and initiate research and development (R&D) studies with the samples they collect, say that sea lettuce can be an alternative to plastic materials.

Biodegradable raw material

Umut Dilsiz, president of the SÜGEP Academy, said: “Ulva lactuca/sea lettuce that is spreading along the coastline results in an environmental problem that causes odor leading to a public nuisance. While our students carried out studies on ulva lactuca, it was revealed that it is a potentially biodegradable raw material. We set the goal of removing the algae from the bay and inducing it into the economy as a raw material,” he explained.

Noting that they could use the cellulose present in sea lettuce as a biodegradable raw material, Dilsiz said: “We started off with the question, ‘Can we produce an alternative packaging to plastic using this cellulose?’ In the next stage, we obtained a biodegradable packaging raw material by using algae. We will continue the related R&D studies in the laboratory,” he said.


Dilsiz stated that they will share the results of the study with universities, the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and the İzmir Development Agency. He also said: “We believe that with their support, we can achieve good results. In other words, there will be stages in which we will need professional support for the project to be fully recognized. Young people are carrying out this work within an international program called Young Spokespersons of the Environment. All the reports of the study are being published on international platforms and recognized all over the world. This is an important example for Turkish youth.”

SÜGEP Project assistant industrial designer Burcu Yağmur Doğan said they carried out a study to obtain raw material for packaging by using the cellulose in sea lettuce to produce a raw material that can serve many different sectors such as food and textile.

“As a result of the support, we started the field studies with boats at İzmir Bay. We also presented this project to the İzmir Development Agency and received positive feedback from the authorities. Our next goal is to examine the algae we collect in a laboratory, and we hope to form a packaging company as a stakeholder. Primarily this project will profit nature, and will also serve commercial industries. Once we have obtain a prototype, it will certainly be considered by packaging companies we are in contact with,” Doğan added.

Young Sustainability Leader Ceyla Şen remarked, “As a team, we took a boat tour in İzmir Bay. As a result, we determined that ulva lactuca is more common especially in İnciraltı and Bostanlı. We will start our R&D studies on sea lettuce that we collected and stored in the laboratory. With our project, we aim to use sea lettuce as a raw material in the packaging industry. We saw such massive amounts of sea lettuce for the first time while on fieldwork. When our project is realized, twin goals of eliminating environmental pollution and inducing sea lettuce into the economy will be realized.”

The project was led by Ege University faculty member Ertan Dağlı in consultation with SUGEP Academy Education Coordinator biologist Çiçek Dilsiz. The project’s team includes Naz Barış, Ece Erdiren, Ceyla Şen, Ceren Kocabaş, Ceren Erzincan, Berra Kalkan, Sarp Uçar, Deren Tepe, Ömer Iyigun, Nehir Alemdağ, Zeynep Özkayalar, Yasmin Ulu, Nehir Göknar and Burcu Yağmur Doğan.

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Source: Daily Sabah


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