The hazards of plastic pollution are well-known to many, including the potential to poison and entangle animals, and even to resurface in the human food supply where the chemical additives can prove especially harmful for the most vulnerable among us. In this milieu, CPG companies have taken an interest in biodegradable plastic—plastic that can decompose due to the action of living organisms, usually bacteria. Though biodegradable plastics are not necessarily made from biomaterials such as plants, CPG companies have more seriously considered biodegradability as a positive functionality of plastic (along with durability, strength, etc.) and its use often appeals to an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer base.

Last month saw oil prices dip below the $30 per barrel threshold for the first time in 10 years. If we still had any doubts about the current volatility in the global oil market, I imagine they’re long gone by now. In fact, many people claim that the situation is the worst we’ve seen in 45 years. And if plummeting prices weren’t enough to worry about, the oil industry will soon have to contend with the Great Crew Change, when approximately half of its workforce will be entering retirement age—and taking large swaths of institutional knowledge with them. Despite the difficulties facing the industry, however, the petrochemical sector still remains a source of potential growth. While fracking persists as a point of contention among environmental advocacy groups in the United States, shale gas development has brought two benefits to the industry. First, it offers another source of energy. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in today’s economic climate, it provides key raw materials to make plastics and other products. These two things are driving petrochemical companies to expand their existing plants in anticipation of this growing sector.

Holding a bag, a person walks out of a store followed by drawn-out beeping sounds. Perhaps a cashier forgot to remove clothing tags on items the individual already purchased or maybe he had hoped to steal something. Either way, the alarm and tag serve as protection against theft, a system that is highly developed for high-value goods like clothing or electronics but has “not found widespread application in the [food and beverage] industry. Yet tampering with food, also known as food fraud, has plagued the food and beverage industry “throughout history” and estimates suggest that $10 billion to $15 billion is lost globally due to fraud.

“Big data” generally refers to very large and complicated data sets that often require special analysis techniques and tools. In many industries, the advent of big data has been recent and dramatic; however, oil and gas companies have “dealt with large quantities of data to make technical decisions…for many years [by investing in] seismic software, visualization tools and other digital technologies.” Still, much has been said about the diminished shape of the oil and gas industry, currently in the “deepest downturn” since the 1990s, which has resulted in lost jobs for more than 200,000 workers and a decrease in the manufacture of drilling and production equipment. Where and how can oil and gas companies stem the outflow of profit?

While the global demand for meat has been steadily increasing, the reliance upon animals to meet this demand is not without complications. In fact, our world’s collective love of meat might one day result in “increased environmental pollution, energy consumption, animal suffering, and the proliferation of animal-borne disease.” How can we avoid such a future? According to a Times editorial, synthetic meat products created in the laboratories of food and beverage companies instead of originating on a farm will come to dominate our supermarkets. Still, current efforts in the development of synthetic meat and other food items are in infancy. In order to accelerate the field, more information about precursor cells, how the cells can be grown in bioreactors and the types of additives and preservatives to add remain a working challenge.

The current volatility of the petrochemical market has put oil and gas firms in a tough position. With the marketplace in a constant state of flux, companies must strive to find ways to retain their competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the margin for error is extremely narrow. One small mistake could result […]