School of Architecture Lecturer and Director of the Cluster for Sustainable Cities, Professor Steffen Lehmann has teamed up with Professor Steven De Meester from the University of Ghent, in Belgium, to tackle research on plastic waste.
Their innovative project, entitled PlastiCity, has been selected for Stage 2 for Funding Call 5 by Interreg-2-Seas.
This is a European Territorial Cooperation Programme covering areas of England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, partially financed by the European Regional Development fund (ERDF).
The overall objective of PlastiCity is to develop an innovative plastic recycling hub and method for affordable collection, sorting and treatment of plastic waste in the 2-Seas area, where the material resources are recovered, recycled and the green economy is promoted.
In total, this Euro 6 million project includes pilot testing and the development of new business scenarios.
The first step will be mapping the waste flows from the different actors in the region, with an in-depth Material Flow Analysis (MFA) to quantify stocks and flows that will inform the sorting analysis for different types of plastic waste streams.
The team will then optimise the collection, separation and reprocessing method that in the past has been a logistical challenge and made it financially uninteresting; however, with the development of new ways of collecting and new value chains from plastic waste, the future Plastic Refinery uses a new business model that will allow the operation to grow.
Education towards behaviour change is another part of the strategy: this includes cutting the creation of plastic waste at the source and encouraging retailers to reduce the number of different plastics they use, to make it easier to recover and recycle their packaging.
In addition, the researchers recommend banning plastic products that are hard to recycle, such as composite products or black plastic food trays, as well as taxing single-use plastic items, such as cups, cutlery and straws, which make up a significant proportion of litter in the ocean and on beaches.
Members of the international consortium include representatives from academia, industry, municipalities and citizen groups: the University of Portsmouth, Southend-on- Sea Borough, the cities of Ghent and Den Haag, IMT Lille, the University of Ghent, the University of Wageningen, and a number of SMEs, including Astradec, Van Werven, Team2 and Mels Containers.
More information about the project can be found on the Cluster for Sustainable Cities website.