There is currently > 7.3 billion tons of plastic in the Earth System, rising to 40 Bt by 2050. ~10 Mt of plastics reach the oceans every year; 12 Bt are projected to be in landfill by 2050. As these are released, the flux of plastics to surface waters, coastlines and oceans is amplified, with significant environmental, social and economic cost. In the global north, plastic ends up in the environment through leakages from waste collection, recycling and disposal, driven by the growth in single-use plastic, with a significant amount of egregious litter and informal disposal. In the global south, there is no formal waste collection, recycling or disposal and litter is worse. For plastics that have residual economic value there are systems to capture and reuse or recycle. However, in most cases, post-consumer waste polymers have no intrinsic economic value so if there are no policies in place, and consequently no collection and recycling, they are destined to end up in the sea. Current understanding of the pathways and fate of plastic in the environment is poorly constrained, with only fragmentary evidence restricted to parts of the cycle.
This project will focus on a particular aspect of plastics e.g. food packaging or reusable bottles, and will investigate the full life cycle analysis, from cradle to grade. By fully understanding the complex system, recommendations will be made as to how changes should be implemented in future.
Training on relevant software (Aspen, GaBi) will be provided.
The circular economy of plastics is a hot topic, with engineers, scientists, social scientists and politicians all aiming to reduce plastics waste. This project is very timely and the skills developed are applicable across a wide range of industries. Employment prospects are excellent.
Licences for all software needed will be provided.
Masters degree in chemical engineering or equivalent subject.
If English is not your first language then you must have International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component.