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A Comparative Study on Paspalum Conjugatum as a Component of Recycled Cardboard Food Packaging Against Recycled Commercial Food Packaging in Terms of Their Durability in Particular of Tensile Strength

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Ateneo de Manila High School

Science Subject Area

A comparative study on Paspalum conjugatum (Carabao grass) as a component of recycled cardboard food packaging against recycled commercial food packaging in terms of their durability in particular of tensile strength.

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements in Science 3

Submitted by:

Cruz, Juergen Allen S.

Guinto, Peter Andre O.

Santos, Luis Gabriel M.

Grade 11 Section C

2016

Abstract

A comparative study on variations of pulp composition in recycled commercial food packaging in terms of their durability in tensile strength was done in this research project. Carabao grass was collected from common fields to be used as components for the pulp. The pulp was then subjected to four (4) different treatments before it was made into a cardboard-like material. The amount of corn starch and water were kept constant while the composition of recycled cardboard and grass was varied in every treatment. Treatment A served as the control and contained 0% grass and 100% cardboard. Treatment B had 20% grass and 80% cardboard; treatment C had 50% grass and 50% cardboard; and treatment D, 80% grass and 20% cardboard. The samples produced were then subjected to a simple tensile strength test. Data showed Treatment C, 50% grass and 50% cardboard, proved to be the sheet with the greatest tensile strength compared to the other three treatments. Results showed that there is a peak-like correlation between the pulp composition and the tensile strength of the sheet. As there is an inverse relationship between the grass and cardboard composition, the peak of the correlation lies somewhat in the middle, considering that Treatment C, having the strongest tensile strength, was at 50% in both compositions. This study is significant with the need of sustainability in the commercial food packaging industry; with polystyrene not an option anymore due to it’s hazardous effects, recycled cardboard is one of the better options to be used as the material for food packaging. As such, innovations, like this research project, are needed to improve the sustainability of an industry the greatly impacts the sustainability of an entire country.

Introduction

Polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic made from the styrene monomer, more commonly known as Styrofoam, can be found in almost all products, especially in beverage containment and food packaging. This material is very efficient due to its insulation properties that are practical with containing food and drinks and the fact that it’s about 95% air which makes products made from this material very light-weight, but despite its proficiency when it comes to being used as a product, styrofoam is very harmful to the environment and society. (“Polystyrene Foam Report”)

Made from the styrene monomer, the basic building block of polystyrene; workers exposed to styrene experience negative health effects including irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. Also, chronic exposure affects the central nervous system causing headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. The manufacturing process of this material was the 5th biggest contributor of creating hazardous waste according to a 1986 EPA report on solid waste in which The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research determined 57 chemical byproducts released by use of combustion of polystyrene foam. The process of producing polystyrene material pollutes the air and makes vast amounts of solid and liquid waste. Harmful toxic chemicals seep into food and beverages when styrofoam is heated. Most importantly, polystyrene is made out of petroleum, which is non-renewable, not sustainable for the environment and pollutes heavily. (“Polystyrene Foam Report”)

Since polystyrene products have been identified as a threat to sustainability and to the environment, many citizens, cities, and even countries have started turning towards the use of cardboard or paper products as an alternative to this harmful substance. One example of how this is being implemented, is the house bill no. 2676, wherein the city of Metro Manila prohibits the use of styrofoam or polystyrene materials, and instead use paper products, such as cardboard, to reduce trash waste. Since then, food establishments, and educational institutions in Metro Manila started using paper products to reduce the amount of non-renewable waste to their environment. (“ACTIONS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PHILIPPINE CONGRESS ON THE AIPA RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED DURING THE 32ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY 18 – 24 SEPTEMBER 2011, PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA”)

Since paper products come from wood pulp, an infinitely renewable source, waste from paper products can be recycled and reused, instead of it piling up in landfills, contributing to the decrease of non-biodegradable waste in this planet. Corrugated cardboard, made out of pulp from plants and trees, are considered as one of the most recycled packaging materials on earth. It is known to be 100% recyclable, and can also be mixed with other recyclable materials to add to its durability. Corrugated cardboard is made out of 70%-90% of recycled materials, making it one of the most “green” packaging materials used in this planet. Also, it does not include any bleaches or dyes, which further enhance its recyclability. (“5 Environmental Advantages of Corrugated Packaging”).

Corrugated cardboard also requires less energy to manufacture and recycle. Since it is mostly made out of renewable and biodegradable materials (used cardboard, recycled pulp, etc.), there is less energy required to process it into making or creating new cardboard. Moreover, since the materials required to make corrugated cardboard are locally available, there will be more opportunities to create sustainable forests, less money to spend in terms of transporting materials, and even provide job opportunities to others. (“5 Environmental Advantages of Corrugated Packaging”).

        Although paper and cardboard material are the ideal products for sustainability and the betterment of the environment, these types of products do not compare to their styrofoam counterpart in terms of durability and strength. As a result, the experimenters decided to use carabao grass as an additive in the material’s pulp in the making of corrugated cardboard food packaging to increase durability and strength. Carabao grass was chosen because of its abundance in the Philippines, and it is also easily renewable. In summary, the goal of this experiment is to find a cheap and practical method to make paper and cardboard material as strong, if not stronger, than regular styrofoam to conserve money, conserve power, exercise sustainability, and provide a safer working environment that does not putworkers’ health at risk.

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