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Title: Environmental packaging
Authors: Davies, Gareth Benjamin Harverd
Advisors: Song, J
Murphy, R
Keywords: Food packaging industry;Polymer-based materials;Plastic packaging;Biodegradable packaging;Poisonous plastics
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Brunel University School of Engineering and Design PhD Theses
Abstract: The food packaging industry is a £300bn global industry growing at a rate of 12% per year and increasingly favouring polymer or polymer-based materials. This generates 58m tonnes of "plastic" packaging waste annually in the EU and poses significant challenges for management given existing legislative constraints and increasing concerns surrounding the environmental impacts. The government, consumers, food retailers and pressure groups are all driving the demand for biodegradable packaging from renewable resources that can be disposed of with reduced impacts to the environment. Green Peace has devised a pyramid classification system of "Poisonous Plastics", which ranks plastics in terms of their harmfulness to the environment. They are campaigning against the use of oil-based materials and advocating the take up of biodegradable materials. The market for biodegradable food packaging is expanding rapidly but is still in its early stages of development and has not reached a critical mass to achieve significant market penetration. This is predominantly due to a lack of suitable materials that meet all environmental, functional and economical requirements. Whilst the long-term solution requires continued efforts in materials research and development, in the shorter term, changing working practices can abate the environmental impact of the industry. This research project tackled the challenge of environmental packaging from several directions: A novel starch-based material was developed that would fill the current gap in the food packaging market and facilitate recovery of the used materials by home composting. Using the sponsoring organisation as a case study, it was proved that by changing working practices by increasing rework and re-processing waste material for use in lower grade applications, both manufacturing costs and environmental impact can be reduced, thus benefiting both industry and the environment. A Life Cycle Assessment of selected biopolymers and oil-based polymers confirmed Green Peace's damning view of PVC and highlighted the need to develop biopolymers further. A domestic composting study of a range of commercially available "biodegradable" polymer materials revealed that a number of biodegradable packaging materials may typically biodegrade well in industrial high-temperature composting systems but fail to biodegrade under a low-temperature home composting environment and thus alerted the potential pitfall in waste management of some biodegradable polymers.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University.
Appears in Collections:Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Dept of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering Theses

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