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MHS Library | How can chemical principles be applied to create a more sustainable future?

Investigation topic 2: Producing and using ‘greener’ polymers

Both natural and synthetic polymers play an important role in everyday life. The cells in animals and plants are built of, and metabolise, natural polymers. Proteins and carbohydrates in our food are both polymers. Synthetic polymers are used for a myriad of purposes in everyday life but may present challenges in terms of the by-products resulting from their manufacture or breakdown, and their persistence in the environment. The sustainability of polymers can be considered in terms of whether these plastics can be avoided by using different products or activities, reduced through design, or replaced by different materials.

Questions that may be explored in this investigation include:

· Is the recycling of packaging products containing aluminium more sustainable than LDPE polymer-based packaging products?

Aluminium, an overview

Aluminium. (2018, March 4).; c\=AU\;o\=Australian Government\;ou\=Geoscience Australia.

Packaging products containing aluminium

There are many packaging products that contain aluminium. Some examples include aluminium foils and laminates which are used for packaging coffee, tea, instant beverages, jams, pies, snacks, biscuits, peanuts, sausage, dried meat, soup concentrates and baby food.

 Applications for Aluminium & Multilayer Foils » Food packaging with Aluminium foil.

Food packaging | Aluminium | Multi-layer. (2019, June 14). Alfipa.

FYI - Exposure of Australian consumers to aluminium in foods and food packaging

Aluminium (

Aluminium. (2016).

FAQs about aluminium in food and products intended for consumers

FAQs about aluminium in food and products intended for consumers - BfR. (2020).

Sustainability of aluminium - academic literature

Making sustainable aluminum by recycling scrap: The science of “dirty” alloys

Raabe, D., Ponge, D., Uggowitzer, P. J., Roscher, M., Paolantonio, M., Liu, C., Helmut Antrekowitsch, Ernst Kozeschnik, Seidman, D. N., Gault, B., Frédéric De Geuser, Dechamps, A., Hutchinson, C., Liu, C., Li, Z., Prangnell, P. B., Robson, J. D., Pratheek Shanthraj, Vakili, S., & Sinclair, C. W. (2022). Making sustainable aluminum by recycling scrap: The science of “dirty” alloys128, 100947–100947.


Case Study: From Plastic Bottles to Aluminum Cans | SUNY New Paltz. (2023).



Food industry and packaging materials

Please find below Chapter 4, Plastic and Metal Packaging

Parisi. (2013). Food industry and packaging materials [electronic resource] performance-oriented guidelines for users / Salvatore Parisi. Smithers Rapra.

LDPE polymer-based packaging

LDPE Low-density polyethylene - the basics

Wikipedia Contributors. (2022, December 27). Low-density polyethylene. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation.

Consumers can find LDPE polymer-based packaging in many everyday products. LDPE is widely used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, plastic parts for computer components, and various molded laboratory equipment. Its most common use is in plastic bags. Other products made from LDPE include trays and general-purpose containers, corrosion-resistant work surfaces, parts that need to be weldable and machinable, parts that require flexibility such as snap-on lids and very soft and pliable parts.

Plastics properties for packaging materials

Johannes Karl Fink. (2013). Grafting. 425–452.


Educationleaves. (2022). Product Packaging | Functions | Types of the product Packaging [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

Constantia Flexibles. (2019). Constantia Flexibles: Why is aluminum foil the ideal material for packaging? [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

Plastic Ingenuity. (2023). Packaging Polymers 101 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – Welcome to Good Information [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.