A LANARKSHIRE company is aiming to prototype what it believes would be the world’s first compostable single-use milk bottle to use a natural biopolymer, which it is deriving from langoustine shells.

CuanTec, based at the MediCity life sciences hub near Motherwell, has embarked on the project with the owner of Mossgiel Farm in Ayrshire following a chance conversation in a shop.

The life sciences company, which was launched at the start of last year, has embarked on a £200,000 crowdfunding campaign to help it take on staff, expand its facilities and produce prototypes of products.

It currently has five employees, four at MediCity and one at Oban.

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Cait Murray-Green, chief executive of CuanTec, highlighted the company’s aims of increasing the number of employees at its Oban site to 15, and creating a production facility at Kilkeel in County Down in Northern Ireland with five staff, if its plans came to fruition.

She added that staff numbers at the company’s site at MediCity could rise to between eight and ten.

Ms Murray-Green said that the compostable milk container could be available as early as this time next year, highlighting the time needed to develop the prototype and go through the regulatory process.

While noting that langoustines would be used initially to produce biopolymer chitin for the prototype compostable milk container, she highlighted potential to derive the material from mushrooms, noting the perspective of vegetarians in this context.

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CuanTec, which is being supported by taxpayer-funded Business Gateway Lanarkshire, has already used biopolymer derived from langoustine shells to produce an anti-microbial, compostable food wrap. This is aimed at reducing spoilage and prolonging the shelf-life of fresh food, and is currently being targeted at the seafood sector.

This wrap is at the prototype stage, and Ms Murray-Green said that discussions were ongoing with “Scottish-based food processors and international brands”, in terms of potential customers.

Business Gateway noted that CuanTec was also close to producing “decomposable beer packaging” for Jaw Brew, based at Hillington near Glasgow.

Ryan Taylor, chief scientific officer at CuanTec, said: “It is a very exciting time for the business, with collaborations arising in often non-conventional ways. Our work with Mossgiel Farm came about after I spoke about what we do in a health food shop. A few weeks later the shop assistant spotted a post on social media from Bryce Cunningham, owner of the farm.

“He’d been looking for two years to find an environmentally friendly, non-petroleum-derived, single-use milk bottle with no luck. The shop assistant suggested he contact us and we are now working with him to make a compostable milk container.”

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Mr Taylor, who has a majority stake in CuanTec, added: “With all new ideas, turning a process into an actual product costs money. That is why we’ve launched the crowdfunding campaign to help us produce prototypes of products that have the potential to significantly reduce our reliance on plastics that are causing real harm to our environment.”

Ms Murray-Green said: “It really is something that every single one of us is affected by. We are all responsible for food waste. We are all responsible for plastic pollution. We all need to do something about it.”

The University of Strathclyde has a minority equity stake in the company. Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Investment Bank arm and the Gabriel business angel syndicate also have stakes.