Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Paul Anastas

Second Advisor

Robert Dubrow


The use of biopolymers is predicted to grow in the coming years as the world searches for solutions to its sustainability problems. Pursuing biobased materials is widely thought of as the sustainable response to moving away from petroleum-based materials and the plastic-waste issue; however, its potential environmental and human health impacts are being questioned. Notably, the controversies related to biopolymers' renewable feedstocks include adding pressure to the food economy, land use, occupational hazards, and environmental pollution with potential human exposure and adverse health effects. Other resource burdens include energy and water. Many biopolymers are designed to biodegrade, compost, or be recycled to help reduce plastic waste. However, infrastructure is overall insufficient and cannot support these end-of-life pathways. The article's primary purpose is to discuss these large pieces of the sustainability narrative and their environmental and health impact. Poly(lactic) acid is used as a case study to generate a multi-faceted understanding of the greater system in a 'real-life' context. Finally, recommendations for future strategies to increase the sustainability and safety of biopolymers are provided.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access