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Battle Over Bioplastics

Posted December 03, 2010 9:00 AM by Steve Melito

"They have made a mess that others now have to clean up," complains Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University. "It is simply not credible to come up with one number for a bioplastic evaluation." The object of Dale's ire, a study from the University of Pittsburgh, asserts that the production of bioplastics poses more environmental problems than the manufacture of conventional plastics.

According to Dale, the Pittsburgh study ignores the life cycle analysis requirement from ISO 14044 that prohibits weighting. By combining 10 different environmental and health impact factors to reach "a single, overarching conclusion", the Pittsburgh study hides the raw data and prevents other researchers from checking conclusions. It's "like mixing impacts for apples, oranges, pears and bananas," Dale explains.

Steve Davies, the global marketing director for a Minnesota-based manufacturer of polylactic acid (PLA), adds his own criticisms. The Pittsburgh researchers "didn't compare any type of products," he explains. "They just compared the resins" while failing to examine how bioplastics products are disposed, an essential part of life cycle analysis.

Is the Pittsburgh bioplastics study fatally flawed?

Source: Plastics News

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#1

Re: Battle Over Bioplastics

12/04/2010 4:20 AM

In the sense that almost all "studies" are "fatally flawed", this one surely is. Reminds me of religion and various other sociopolitical disasters. Does no one ever learn?

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Re: Battle Over Bioplastics

12/04/2010 3:08 PM

A study that hides the raw data, as suggested in the article, is flawed. On the other hand, it would be equally flawed for us to conclude that the study is flawed without reading the actual study. Maybe you could link it up when the publication comes out, and we can really see what it's made of.

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