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Active sustainable packaging to tackle food waste and plastic pollution

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  • Full or part time
    Dr N Chatterton
    Dr S Collinson
    Dr C Boardman
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

‘Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted’ (UN Food & Agriculture organization) and current single-use plastic packaging causes widespread environmental pollution and has been prominent in the media following Blue Planet II. This project will formulate novel sustainable active packaging materials to reduce food waste and tackle the problems of plastic pollution.

Our recent BBSRC funded project ‘Crop by-product processing into nanomaterials incorporating bioactives for targeted release and shelf life extension’ (see ) generated novel biodegradable materials with anti-microbial activity to increase the shelf-life of food. Specifically, we applied electrospinning to encapsulate particles of oat or tomato fibre with the anti-microbial nisin in a nanofiber network of the biodegradable natural polymer chitosan or alginic acid.

We demonstrated that these materials have anti-microbial activity. Additionally, we developed a novel technology to coat one side of a cast film made of vegetable fibre and biodegradable chitosan, with such chitosan nanofibers as a biodegradable packaging with two periods of antimicrobial/antioxidant release.

These nanofiber coating will be studied to encapsulate a variety of anti-microbials and anti-oxidants and varying the properties of the nanofibers will tailor the controlled release of their pay-load. This enables access to smart materials that can be tailored both in terms of its physical, anti-spoilage and biodegradable properties.

Traditionally plastic packaging is removed from food before waste treatment by anaerobic digestion. However recent studies showed that bioplastics will degrade within an anaerobic digestor and therefore we will study the biodegradation of our new materials under both environmental models and anaerobic digestion conditions as a waste management solution.

Further Information

This interdisciplinary project is supervised by Dr. Nick Chatterton, Dr. Simon Collinson and Dr. Carl Boardman and involves a local company. The student would be required to live in the UK and within commuting distance of The Open University in Milton Keynes.
Applicants will be expected to have a good undergraduate degree (upper second class or higher) in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Materials or a related discipline.

This project will involve the chemical synthesis of new polymeric materials containing functional additives, including further developing methodologies for their application in antimicrobial packaging and studying their biodegradation. Training is available for any new techniques. Informal enquiries relating to the project should be sent to Dr Nick Chatterton, [Email Address Removed]

You can also find more information in the following link:

How to Apply

Please send an email with your CV, a completed application form ( and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date) to [Email Address Removed]

Closing date: Midnight 31st of March 2020

Interview date: Interviews will be arranged promptly after the closing date and can be conducted via Skype if appropriate.

LHCS holds Athena Swan Bronze Status. We promote diversity in employment and welcome applications from all sections of the community.

Funding Notes

This three-year research studentship is funded by the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at The Open University and provides a stipend of £15,009 per year (2020 rate) and all academic fees (at UK/EU level) are covered.

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