A substantial grant will help the University of Georgia examine multilayer plastic biodegradation in an attempt to lessen packaging waste in the environment.
The Walmart Foundation is giving $800,000 to the Materials Institute at UGA with the hopes of creating new ways to design packaging with "more sustainable materials," the school said.
"The grant will help us examine how the selection of materials for flexible packaging influences the biodegradability of that plastic in different environments, and also how the unique microbes that exist in these environments influence the biodegradation process," Jason Locklin, director of the New Materials Institute, said in a statement.
"Our data will be used to propose new and logical standards to help find ways to manage packaging waste that is presently being thrown away or blown away," said Locklin, who is a principal investigator on the project.
Multilayer packaging is commonly used to keep food fresher longer, but the material can be vexing for recyclers because of the incompatibility of the layers once they hit the recovery stream.
Others working on the project include Jenna Jambeck, who leads the institute's Center for Circular Materials Management, and Evan White, an assistant research scientist.
Jambeck, an associate professor in the College of Engineering., has gained fame in recent years for her groundbreaking work to estimate the amount of plastic waste entering the world's oceans. That effort has helped place a keen focus on the issue.
"Tackling our plastics problem is going to require new approaches to the entire cycle of production, consumer use and disposal," said David Lee, vice president of research at the school, in a statement.
The New Materials Institute works to prevent waste through new designs and systems through a set of green engineering principles such as working to meet need and minimize excess, minimizing material diversity, and designing for separation.