On The Move
Paper, plastic or reusable? Grocery bags go under the Clemson microscope
Sep 14, 2012
“What are the real consequences to the environmental health of our communities, forests, wildlife, and waterways?” asks Robert Kimmel, associate professor in Clemson University’s food, nutrition and packaging science department. “We need to do a comprehensive and unbiased study of what the facts are,” he said.
Clemson researchers will study the impact of grocery bag materials on the environment through research funded by Hilex Poly, LLC. The company has awarded $179,864 to the university for an analysis of the environmental impact of the most commonly used grocery bags.
“Many studies have been done to determine the environmental impact of grocery bag,” said Kimmel, director of the university’s Center for Flexible Packaging and principal investigator for the research project. “However, most studies to date are either incomplete or were done in Europe or Australia, where consumer behavior, manufacturing and recycling processes differ from those in the United States.”
The plan is to publish a factual, scientific-based analysis of grocery bag manufacture, use and disposal, resulting from a new environmental impact study (life-cycle analysis) of the types of grocery bags most commonly used in the U.S. and based on U.S. data and assumptions. The life-cycle analysis will investigate the greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and other environmental impacts produced from product sourcing to final disposal.
Kay Cooksey, Cryovac Endowed Chair in Packaging Science at Clemson, is the co-investigator. She and a small team of students will examine the legislative and activist roles in implementing policies affecting grocery bags. The group also will review literature and trends.
“Clemson’s life-cycle analysis of plastic, paper and reusable bags will be very important, especially since no such comprehensive study has been done from an American perspective,” said Phil Rozenski of Hilex Poly. “As a leading research and educational institution, Clemson’s research will help people fully understand the role these products play in our lives and environment.”
Hilex Poly, LLC, a manufacturer of plastic bag and film products, pioneered on-site plastic bag recycling and operates the largest closed-loop plastic bag recycling facility in the world, where plastic bags are turned back into resin pellets and then into new bags.
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