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Evaluation, Development and Implementation of Sustainable Packaging Systems


The overarching goal of this project is to create sustainable packaging systems (SPSs). To be able to create and implement these systems existing and new tools are implemented and developed. The project also seeks to create new packaging materials produced from renewable resources so that the overall environmental footprint of the packaging system can be minimized.<P> This umbrella project is divided in four main objectives. <OL> <LI>Creation of new polymeric structures: The goal of this task is to use renewable resources to create new polymeric structures such as biobased blends and composites for membranes applications. <LI> Design and applications of active packaging: The goal of this task is to design packaging systems and functional membranes that control the release of antimicrobial and/or antioxidant compounds. <LI>Evaluation of end of life scenario: The goal of this area is to create a better understanding of the underlying biodegradation mechanisms of biodegradable polymeric packaging structures so that they can be deployed successfully in different environments. This task is also seeking to study the recyclability of new and existing packaging structures. <LI>Evaluation of Sustainable Packaging Systems (SPSs): The goal of this task is to integrate objective I to III by using life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques to evaluate the environmental implications of adopting SPSs. In addition, this task is seeking to use systemic sustainability analysis to evaluate SPSs.</ol> Expected Outputs <OL> <LI> Creation of new polymeric structures: Production of new biobased polymer structures. Generation of intellectual property and patents due to the generation of this work. <LI> Design and applications of active packaging: Development and understanding of the release kinetic of antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds from biobased polymeric films. <LI>Evaluation of end of life scenario: Design of multilayer compostable packaging structures. <LI>Evaluation of Sustainable Packaging Systems (SPSs): Evaluation of the environmental footprint of sustainable packaging systems. Creation of a methodology to evaluate SPSs.

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Non-Technical Summary: While it is possible to create packaging systems from a number of existing petroleum based materials, their environmental footprints are generally higher than packaging systems based on materials from renewable resources so that in the near future they may not be sustainable. Since packaging systems are crucial for improving food supply safety and the overall performance of the triple bottom line, we plan to develop new packaging materials from renewable resources to be used in the fresh produce, food packaging and plasticulture industries. In addition, the sustainability of these new systems will be evaluated. To conduct this evaluation, we are planning to use existing methodologies such as life cycle inventory and assessment, which will give us information about the environmental footprint of these systems. Finally, new tools are being created (Systematic Prospective Sustainability Analysis (SPSA)) to evaluate the sustainability of the packaging system. <P> Approach: To reach the goal of this project, existing and new tools are being used and developed to create sustainable packaging systems for the fresh produce, food packaging, and the plasticulture industries. Present tools such as material flow analysis and life cycle assessment are being used to assess the use of conventional and biodegradable films in these industries. The final objective of these evaluations is to determine for each of these industries the combinations of choices that produce the lowest environmental impact taking into consideration global warming potential, ozone depletion, fossil fuel depletion, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical smog, human toxicity, and ecological toxicity. New tools like Systematic Prospective Sustainability Analysis (SPSA) are being developed to assess how sustainable are these new packaging systems. Quite importantly, new packaging materials from renewable resources are being developed to replace petroleum-based materials so that the environmental footprint of these packaging systems could be reduced. Biodegradation of these new packaging systems is being evaluated and established in different environments such as soil and compost as a new option for their end of life scenario. Finally, all of these assessments and outcomes are brought together to produce the best sustainable packaging system.

Auras, Rafael
Michigan State University
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