Universitat de Girona (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 8838-8843
ISBN: 978-84-697-9480-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2018.2145
Conference name: 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2018
Location: Valencia, Spain
The presence of chemistry in human life plays a key role in developing the world economy and enhancing the health status of the society. Nonetheless, a large quantity of manufacturing processes that implies the use of chemicals can bring a harmful impact on the environment. It is therefore essential that the environmental risks associated by the chemical process is mitigated to an acceptable level. In this sense, green chemistry is a major field of science underlying the responsibility and the sustainable development.

Since the Bologna Plan creation, Chemical Engineering Degree of the University of Girona has promoted creative and innovative study methodologies in order to maximize the knowledge transfer towards the students. An original procedure for the development and the evaluation of the competencies are applied in the Ecological Chemistry subject. The main objective of the subject is to enhance the student’s capabilities to analyze, identify and solve problems applying ethics and sustainability. Nonetheless, the use of English and the communication capacities are essentials to accomplish this objective. The topics of the subject involve the study of real problematics in the chemical industries and propose greener alternative methodologies. The teaching methodology is based on dynamical theoretic and practical classes. Some of the cases are centered in the plastic industry.

Nowadays, the global consumption of plastics is about 300 million tonnes per year and it is expected to increase in the next years. Oil-based plastics such as polyethylene (PE) has been increasingly used in packaging market because their low cost, high processability and wide availability. However, the environmentally concerns of the actual society have focused the research in eco-friendly materials. In this sense, the replace of oil-based materials for bio-based and biodegradable materials is one of the market goals. Thermoplastic starch (TPS) is a biodegradable material and a real sustainable alternative to manufacture packaging products. Its use represents an exploitation of an industrial waste product as a valuable material. Although a plasticizer is required for the manufacturing process, the easy and scalable processes made it a greener alternative in packaging.

Students test the mechanical performance and processability of the PE and the processed thermoplastic starch in the practical sessions. Afterwards they prepare an English oral exposition in groups about the competitive assessment of the TPS versus PE in terms of manufacturing processes, costs and sustainability. For the presentation they require to use the recollected information and perform their own research. This proposed evaluation promotes team work, oral communication and English capabilities. Finally the student evaluates this experience and the reported results were positive. Nonetheless, some improvements are proposed to enhance the quality of the course.
Sustainability, green chemistry, ethics, knowledge transference.