Sustainable Packaging Materials: A Guide for Industry Professionals
by Muhammad Rabnawaz, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and CANR Faculty Laureate, Michigan State University
WHY THIS BOOK?
I teach two short courses to industry professionals (thrice each year), and I interact regularly with packaging professionals, decision makers, managers, CTOs, and even legislators. Through these interactions, I have found many of them are confused about packaging sustainability.
Although there are many books, articles, and magazine stories published on this topic, they often provide conflicting or confusing information that complicates rather than simplifies the principles and practices of packaging sustainability.
For example, my students have asked me many questions hoping to get definitive research-based answers. Here are just a few: What is the future of recycling? Is recycling a viable approach? Are biodegradable/compostable materials better than recyclable packaging? Do oxo-degradable packaging materials have any future? Are glass, paper, and metal sustainable alternatives to plastics? Are extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws effective for the United States’ waste management system? What materials are likely to be banned and what are their potential viable replacements? Should microplastics be a concern for packaging companies?
Thus, as a service to the packaging industry and to others concerned about our environment, I provide research and fact-based answers in this text to the questions mentioned. I hope you will use the information to make decisions likely to result in sustainable packaging.
Thus, I intend to help you to accomplish six goals.
1) You will be able to:
a) identify potential packaging materials that are likely to be phased out to meet new regulations and
b) be able to find alternatives to benefit your research and business.
2) You will be able to make informed choices about packaging materials by considering three factors: sustainability, performance, and cost.
3) You will be able to follow guidelines on the use of various packaging materials so that you may stay ahead of the demands of the industry.
4) You will be able to identify the emerging packaging trends in both academia and industry.
5) You will be able to understand and explain the EPR laws, and
6) Your will be able to understand emerging issues associated with microplastic pollution, and the actions recommended to mitigate these challenges.
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Sustainable Materials Packaging Team
MSU School of Packaging researchers are exploring high-barrier biodegradable paper as an alternative to plastic
The MSU School of Packaging was awarded a two-year, $450,000 National Science Foundation grant to design a high-barrier biodegradable paper (HB2P) as an alternative to plastics. Read more...
Inside the DOE's $1.7 million investment into sustainable plastic research at MSU
“Many people do not know that 30% of the plastic that is produced today, it goes into the multilayer packaging,” Rabnawaz said. “The problem is … even if you collect them, you cannot recycle them.” Read more...
The quest to recycle the unrecyclable
Thirty percent of plastic ends up in products that can’t be recycled even if collected. DOE is investing in Spartan research to help fix that. Read more...
Muhammad Rabnawaz: Confronting the plastics problem
Did you know that the United States recycles less than 10% of its plastic waste? The remainder is sent to landfills. Keeping plastic waste out of landfills and water systems is a complicated problem that MSU’s Muhammad Rabnawaz is working to simplify. Read more
2021 Innovator of the Year Award: Muhammad Rabnawaz
“The credit for our innovations primarily goes to my research team who put the ideas to work and the collegiality and supportive leadership at the School of Packaging and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
Our article features as the cover image for Journal of Applied Polymer Science, Volume 139, Issue 7:
This cover image, designed by Syeda Shamila Hamdani, Zhao Li, Ping Ruoqi, Emily Rollend, Muhammad Rabnawaz, depicts the utilization of a bilayer coating approach using poly (vinyl alcohol) (PVOH) and zein to enhance the water vapor and oxygen barrier properties of paper materials. Paper can offer viable alternatives to plastics in many packaging applications if its barrier properties are improved. Due to the current plastic waste crisis, we must reduce our plastic use. DOI: 10.1002/app.51707