£8m research projects to innovate plastics production and use

Eight new research projects that will explore new and different ways of making, using and recycling plastics have been announced by the science minister, Chris Skidmore.

The projects commence in early 2019 - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The projects commence in early 2019 – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The researchers will explore alternatives to fossil-based materials for plastics, as well as looking into the complex factors involved in the life cycle of plastic materials, from consumers’ and business’ needs and behaviours, to how to use technology to reclaim or break down plastics.

The eight innovative projects are based at higher education institutions and are partnerships that will reportedly bring new thinking to the plastics challenge.

The projects commence in early 2019 and include:

  • Designing-out Plastic Waste, led by University College London, which will create a new bacteria-based recycling technology for plastics that will consume plastics, breaking them down into reusable material. A new Plastics Waste Innovation Hub will also be created at the University, bringing together researchers and businesses to consider new and innovative methods to recycle plastics.
  • Evolving a circular plastics economy led by the University of Hull, will seek to develop biodegradable biopolymers, meaning the plastics will not persist in the environment and can be repurposed following disposal and breakdown.
  • RE3 – Rethinking Resources and Recycling led by The University of Manchester, this will develop graphene membrane filters for the removal of micro-plastics in water and a new chemical-method of recycling contaminated and mixed soft plastic materials.

The projects were successful in the Creative Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastics Waste competition, and are among the first to be funded through the Plastics Research Innovation Fund (PRIF).

The Fund, managed by UK Research and Innovation, is engaging Britain’s best scientists and innovators to help move the country towards more circular economic and sustainable approaches to plastics.

The full list of projects:

  • Exeter Multidisciplinary Plastics Research hub: ExeMPLaR
    University of Exeter
  • RE3 – Rethinking Resources and Recycling
    The University of Manchester 
  • Designing-out Plastic Waste
    University College London 
  • Evolving a circular plastics economy
    University of Hull
  • UKRI Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastic Waste
    University of Cambridge 
  • Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions)
    Queen’s University of Belfast 
  • Plastics: Redefining Single-Use
    University of Sheffield – Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures
  • Holistic integration of technology, design and policy for a greener plastic future
    Imperial College London