Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Packaging Science

Committee Member

Dr. Kay Cooksey, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Kimmel

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Gerard

Abstract

Recently, the thin plastic-film bags distributed at thousands of checkouts across the United States have been targeted by environmental advocacy groups as wasteful nuisance packaging, and many places have passed legislation to ban or restrict their distribution. The resulting demand for a more durable grocery bag able to withstand reuse has led to a rise in popularity for bags made from fabric, and the relative durability and low cost of nonwoven polypropylene fabric has made it a popular choice of material. However, studies have shown that these bags come with their own set of issues: their reusability makes them a vector for cross-contamination, and many consumers do not reuse their bags enough to recoup the additional cost of materials and energy needed to create the thicker material. Many of the bag laws offer guidelines for determining if a given bag officially qualifies as “reusable,” but at this time, virtually no data exists regarding the real-world durability of nonwoven polypropylene bags. To test whether they could handle the real-world wear-and-tear, 40 nonwoven polypropylene bags were loaded with grocery items and carried by hand for 125 repetitions of 175 feet, with half of the samples undergoing machine-washing every 25 repetitions to determine if washing would affect the durability of the bag. Additionally, 80 bags were tested with the mechanically-assisted ATP-001 testing protocol suggested by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, to see if it could serve as an acceptable alternative to the physically-intensive walk test. Half of this sample was also washed, to see if this had an effect on lifespan. All 20 of the unwashed, hand-carried bags withstood at least 50 reuses, and 12 out of 20 of them withstood the required 125 reuses necessary to meet the most strenuous definition of reusable bag required by various municipal laws. Washing did appear to result in a lower lifespan, with only 7 of the 20 bags able to withstand both 125 reuses and 5 machine-wash cycles. The ATP-001 tests, conducted with slightly different criteria for failure, resulted in similar rates of success, with 23 out of 40 unwashed bags and 14 out of 40 washed bags able to withstand testing.

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