This week, Clemson University announced that it would examine the environmental impacts of grocery bag materials including plastic, paper, reusable nonwoven fabric and reusable plastic through a study financed by Hilex. According to Clemson University’s press release, “The plan is to publish a factual, scientific-based analysis of grocery bag manufacture, use and disposal, resulting from a new environmental impact study (life-cycle analysis) of the types of grocery bags most commonly used in the U.S. and based on U.S. data and assumptions. The life-cycle analysis will investigate the greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and other environmental impacts produced from product sourcing to final disposal.”
In the Clemson University announcement, Robert Kimmel, director of the university’s Center for Flexible Packaging and principal investigator for the research project, explained the impetus for this research; “many studies have been done to determine the environmental impact of grocery bags. However, most studies to date are either incomplete or were done in Europe or Australia, where consumer behavior, manufacturing and recycling processes differ from those in the United States.”
According to Clemson, no such comprehensive study has been done from an American perspective; therefore Clemson’s analysis will be very important to fully understanding the role these products play in our lives and environment.