Diverting municipal solid waste from landfills by increasing compostable packages
Around 35% of the 258 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States in 2016 was recovered through recycling and composting. Paper and paperboard were highly recycled due to the greater recycling rate of corrugated board (89.5%). Plastic, instead, was 9% recovered, mostly polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate. Hence, most plastic waste (about 33 million tons) ended up creating white pollution and accumulating in landfills, which is a major environmental concern. Compostable polymers, such as poly(lactic acid), poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate), and thermoplastic starch, represent a promising way to divert additional plastic waste from landfills replacing conventional polymers for some applications, especially for disposable plates and cutlery and contaminated plastic waste (e.g., food packaging and agricultural mulch films). However, such benefit is only realized if the compostable packages are collected and disposed of in an appropriate waste management system. The ideal scenario is one in which these products/ packages would be collected and treated together with other organic wastes in composting facilities. However, the main current challenges for compostable- based packages are their collection, availability of compostable facilities, and their biodegradation rate. This presentation will examine some of the current difficulties for recycling materials to be collected in the different states of the U.S. and the importance of creating novel compostable packages to reduce white pollution and divert packages from landfills. Notably, it will concentrate on presenting the current challenges associated with compostable packages in North America and around the world.
Dr Auras is an associate professor in the School of Packaging, MSU, East Lansing, MI, USA. He holds a BSChE from the National University of Misiones, Argentina, a MS in Materials Science and Technology from the National University of San Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a Ph.D. in Packaging Science from the School of Packaging, MSU. He teaches courses in materials science, polymers, shelf life, instrumental analysis, life cycle assessment, and packaging and the environment. His research interests include sustainable packaging systems, life cycle assessment, carbon-neutral packaging, packaging waste scenarios, biodegradation and compostability. Other areas of interest in his research are biodegradable polymers, mass and heat transfer phenomenon in polymers, and food product/package compatibility and interaction.
Specialties: Dr. Auras has authored and coauthored a variety of publications, including peer review articles and chapter books. He reviews project proposal from federal agency such as NSF, USDA, and other organizations and manuscript from international peer review journal publications. He is an active member in the polymer, packaging, and food science fields.