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Clemson Launches Compostable Packaging Research Initiative

The initiative from The Sonoco FRESH food, packaging and sustainability institute will bridge lab-based R&D with the larger-scale campus organics recycling system.

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The FRESH food, packaging and sustainability institute at Clemson University in South Carolina has launched a compostable packaging research initiative to bridge lab-based R&D with the larger-scale campus organics recycling system.

Directing the lab will be Dr. James Sternberg, assistant professor of Sustainable Packaging and recipient of an EPA Green Chemistry Award for the development of a bio-based foam. The lab will feature a respirometer for rapid and cost-effective testing of compostable materials on a scale that can incorporate diverse feedstocks. Full-scale R&D in collaboration with Clemson’s solid waste management operations will include a reverse aeration system to accelerate degradation and enable state-of-the-art monitoring for data collection and analysis.  

The initiative has been undertaken to provide a better understanding of biodegradability in various settings by leveraging Clemson’s recycling ecosystem. Studies will make use of the full recycling process from waste collection to on-campus mechanical and organic recycling capabilities.

   Read related article from Clemson University’s FRESH 2023 conference, “Compostable Packaging: ‘A Solution, Not Every Solution.’”

As a complement to faculty-led research conducted with industry stakeholders, Dr. Andrew Hurley is leading a special topics course for undergraduate and graduate students to study the relationship between compostable packaging, organic waste, and soil health. Dr. Hurley’s expertise also includes eye tracking and user experience analytics to measure the efficacy of sustainability messaging.

FRESH aims to harness this collaborative work to offer novel packaging composability research, testing, and talent development to advance sustainable packaging.

The organic recycling research facilities and educational activities were made possible through collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Commerce and stakeholders across the value chain.  PW

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