The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ChE Alumni Speaker, Thomas Epps, Univ. Delaware, “Sustainability of Plastics: Can we find new materials and engineer strategies to reduce the impact of plastics?”, Day 2


Friday, September 23, 2022 - 11:30am


165 Campus Center



The sustainability of current and future plastic materials is a major focus of basic research, industry, government, and society at-large. Plastics play an indispensable role in every aspect of modern life from materials for aircraft, cars, and buildings, to clothing and shoes, food and beverage packaging, and biomedical devices. Thus, there is a general recognition of the positive impacts of plastics, especially packaging; however, the negative consequences around end-of-life outcomes (e.g., plastics waste and incineration), along with overall materials re-use, are issues that must be addressed. In this talk, I will highlight some challenges associated with the use of plastic components and the diversity of materials necessary to satisfy consumer demands, with several examples focused on plastics packaging and high-performance materials. I will also discuss the opportunities provided by conventional and advanced recycling/upgrading approaches that can be applied to both petroleum-derived and biobased materials/feedstocks, along with vignettes that introduce experimental, computational, data science, and materials traceability approaches to the valorization of polymers and plastics to improve circularity and sustainability. In short, an understanding of chemistry and engineering, combined with toxicity, environmental science, economics, behavioral science, political science, and life-cycle assessment are all important for the design and utilization of materials with reduced and verifiable impacts.


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