Background: Film-based products and packaging are growing due to their efficient material utilization compared to other material forms (bottles, rigid containers, etc.). In developing countries the use of flexible packaging for small unit sales allows low-income populations to access products that can be key for their wellbeing. Unfortunately, the current end-of-life scenario for films is generally landfill or street trash. We’d like to explore a return program aimed at energy recovery of these films in developing countries based on Industrial Symbiosis.
Problem Statement: This project seeks to understand the potential to reduce waste from flexible films going to landfill or trash and use that mass to create energy in an economic and symbiotic fashion.
The project will study the markets or business districts common in developing countries. These markets often consist of small distribution points at which many products are being sold. It is possible that using the concepts of industrial symbiosis, the research team can determine an appropriate network of collection of the flexible packaging waste that would then be transported to a waste-to-energy facility. The electricity or energy would then be used for benefit of the system or market in productive services. These services can include lighting for extended operation hours, cell phone or other electronic charging, or food processing.
Research Questions: Several questions should be addressed as the project is developed. These questions include:
- What are the material and energy flows associated with the flexible film packaging in a small market or business district?
- What are the material-flows and distances required to make the project practical and economically feasible? What are the interactions between mass and distance for economic feasibility?
- What are the economic flows that could be generated through the project?
- What incentives for consumers and distribution point owners are required to generate sufficient material flows for economic feasibility?
- What is the appropriate network topology for such a project?
This project is being proposed by Procter & Gamble as a sponsored project in the MCubed Diamond Program. The Master Alliance Agreement between the University of Michigan and Procter & Gamble will define IP Rights, Publication Rights and Confidentiality.
If you have questions about sponsored research within the MCubed Diamond Program, please email us at MCubedDiamondProgram@umich.edu.
Please note – In this case, the faculty owner for this MCubed Diamond cube has already been identified: Jose Alfaro, Director of Global Engagement, Assistant Professor of Environmental Practice, School of Natural Resources & Environment. We encourage you to submit your comments to join this cube as an additional collaborator.