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Engineering Materials

Slideshow: NPE Plastics Conference Showcases Sustainability

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Beth Stackpole
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Sustainable packaging a way to fight litter bugs
Beth Stackpole   4/24/2012 6:43:58 AM
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Cool slide show, Ann. I particularly liked seeing the BASF materials being used in food packaging applications. All you have to do is take a walk (I live out in the country and it's still a problem) and it's an eye opener to see the cups, bottles, and fast food trash littering the sides of the road. Given that it's harder to change people's behavior (although I can't understand littering, but that's a totally separate issue), it's comforting to know progress is being made on creating products that will be a bit easier on the environment.

naperlou
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Re: Sustainable packaging a way to fight litter bugs
naperlou   4/24/2012 10:01:02 AM
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Beth, that can be dissiapointing (littering, I mean).  I learned not to leave a trace at an early age. 

I am fascinated by the range of material solutions to this problem.  Of course, the other problem being addressed is the feedstock.  Reducing out dependence on oil is another useful result.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sustainable packaging a way to fight litter bugs
Ann R. Thryft   4/24/2012 1:02:25 PM
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Beth, I also live in the country and I also see plastic litter on the roadside. In fact, I carry a trash bag, pick it up and bring it back to recycle. I can't understand littering, either: I used to go backpacking and the rule I learned is make it look like you were never there. At least if plastic trash is biodegradable it won't take an extremely long time for the plastic to break down and become harmless constituents of the ecosystem.


TJ McDermott
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They're green, BUT...
TJ McDermott   4/24/2012 10:32:14 AM
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A green plastic films manufacturer stopped by the PackExpo booth of my company about four years ago, with some sample preformed bags.  They wanted to test their bags on our equipment.  We were happy to run the test right there.

The bags were incredibly stiff and "hard" compared to regular LDPE packaging material.  This material sounded like cellophane when handling it (lots of LOUD crackling crunching noise).  The material was also very, very fragile.  It had no stretch, no give.  Stress it just a bit, and it rapidly tore.

It was green (made from corn), and would degrade readily, but it wasn't very usable for packaging.  There's still a lot of work to be done in the field to make a usable green material for packaging.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: They're green, BUT...
Ann R. Thryft   4/24/2012 1:03:36 PM
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TJ, thanks for that input. I heard from several manufacturers of bioplastics and/or recyclable plastics (the BASF Ecoflex/Ecovio peanuts bag is both) that they had spent considerable time and effort getting feedback from users to overcome exactly the unpleasant characteristics you described. The BASF peanuts bag, for example, is not noisy like cellophane when you manipulate it and that specific problem was cited as one they had worked to overcome. So things have changed quite a bit in four years and these materials now exist--I've seen them--but they haven't yet been adopted in quantities that make them visible to end-users. 

And of course, making so-called green materials from food crops, especially corn, is now a no-no.


Tim
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Re: They're green, BUT...
Tim   4/24/2012 9:24:54 PM
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These may have been the same bags that Frito Lay introduced for their Sun Chips in 2010.  They were so noisy and had a such a bad feel that the Sun Chip sales actually fell about 10% during the year that they were on the market.  It would be great to see a non-noisy solution that would be bidegradable.

TJ McDermott
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Re: They're green, BUT...
TJ McDermott   4/25/2012 1:35:08 AM
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Tim, you are correct, it was the same material. In the instance I described, the bags in question were pre-formed to run on the type of machinery that packages sliced bread. Can you imagine that material when making your kids' lunch sandwiches?

Tim
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Re: They're green, BUT...
Tim   4/26/2012 8:29:48 PM
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It would be rough to hear that much noise first thing in the morning for toast.  At least it would wake you up.

Charles Murray
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Lettuce?
Charles Murray   4/24/2012 7:32:10 PM
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Ann, I don't understand the thin film photo in slide 4. What's that a picture of? Is it growing through the film?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Lettuce?
Ann R. Thryft   4/25/2012 12:33:27 PM
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Chuck, that appears to be lettuce or some other leafy vegetable. The thin film is mulch, which you put down around your crop plants to help keep down weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Many people use large sheets of black petro-based plastic, which is highly effective but does not biodegrade quickly and can leave harmful residues. I'm a gardener, not a largescale farmer, but I suspect it's put down before or during planting not after and holes punched through for the plants.


Charles Murray
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Re: Lettuce?
Charles Murray   4/26/2012 8:17:49 PM
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Thanks, Ann. Since I'm not a gardener, I didn't understand.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Lettuce?
Ann R. Thryft   4/27/2012 12:50:04 PM
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You're welcome. I live in a mostly agricultural county and grew up surrounded by it, so this is a common sight to me. I realize it's less so to many as more people move to cities.


Tim
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Re: Lettuce?
Tim   4/26/2012 8:36:56 PM
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Hopefully, this film is available to be applied in a large scale application.  Many large scale farm plants have been genetically engineered to specifically resist herbicides (ie Round Up Ready Corn).  This allows the farmers to spray the entire field to kill weeds while retaining their cash crop.  If this film allows for the farmer to reduce the amount of herbicide and geneticallly engineered seed, it would only be a net gain to consumers.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Lettuce?
Ann R. Thryft   4/30/2012 12:56:28 PM
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Tim, this material is specifically targeted for large-scale agricultural applications, as an alternative to poisonous sprays like Roundup and genetically modified (GM) crops. So is black petro-based plastic, but this material has even more benefits, since it can be plowed under, saving time and cost of removal, and saving the damage done if not removed.


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