Polypropylene Plastic

Like most college students, I have a knack for hitting snooze on my alarm clock one too many times. Almost every morning, I run out the door, breakfast in hand, and eat it in class. In most cases, it’s completely acceptable for students to eat during class; however, if you’re sitting at the front of the room eating a CLIF bar with a wrapper made from polypropylene plastic and think you’ll get away with it, think again.


My friends always tease me for how much noise I make when I unwrap the bar, so I decided to research what the wrapper is made of. Like everything in design, there is a purpose behind using polypropylene plastic. The story behind these bars is that, as their popularity grew, they wanted hikers to be able to essentially throw away these wrappers without harming the environment. Unfortunately, they have not come up with a fool proof design of a biodegradable wrapper. The wrapper consists of the plastic and a layer of aluminum sandwiched in between (Wend). Although the  packaging keeps the bars fresh and safe to eat, it is neither practical, nor cost-effective to recycle.

Another company that pushed the biodegradable bag was Frito-Lay with their Sun Chip bags. Perhaps CLIF could take notes, as these are made from 100% biodegradable plant material (WSJ). Although the feedback on these bags was mainly negative due to their volume when opening, Frito-Lay put a lot of consideration into the effects on the environment. Granted, they would not decompose for a number of years, they still are thinking in the right direction.

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As discussed in class this week, plastic is everywhere. Polypropylene plastic is used in both industry and consumer goods (wiseGEEK). It can be used as both a structural fiber and a plastic. It is said that the development has not slowed since its discovery. This fascinates me that a polymer such as this can be used in both a wrapper for a snack and structurally as an element in a building. I recognize that this is not something to be used as a support system, but as a thermoplastic, or insulation. As the country continues to develop and use materials in a myriad of ways, I can only imagine what could be done with glass or concrete.





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