A new University of Minnesota study finds that using logging residue to manufacture new-generation plastics harms the environment less than using row crops such as corn or wheat. Researcher Luyi Chen says cultivation of row crops requires a lot of management and specifically fertilization — a driving factor in environmental emissions. But Chen says forests don’t need fertilizer or cultivation equipment, resulting in less environmental pollution overall.
Chen used a technique called “life-cycle analysis” to determine the total environmental impact of producing plastic bottles from various materials. “That’s the point of life-cycle analysis,” she says. “It’s analyzing the environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of a product.” Chen says the technique can be used to determine how environmentally “green” certain products are, and whether their impact on the planet can be reduced.
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