£8 million PRIF-funded research projects to reduce the impact of plastics on the planet

Posted on: 20/12/2018

Eight new projects are to collectively re-think plastics production and use, with UKCPN working closely to realise this aim.


The Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, has announced eight new research projects to explore new ways of making, using and recycling plastics. The eight projects were successful in the Creative Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastics Waste competition. These projects are funded through the Plastics and Research Innovation Fund (PRIF), which is managed by UK Research and Innovation, with the overall aim of reducing the impact our plastics have on the environment.

The eight universities involved are the The University of Exeter, The University of Manchester, University College London, University of Hull, University of Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Sheffield, and Imperial College London.

The projects are to together engage the country’s best scientists and innovators to move the country towards more circular economic and sustainable approaches to plastics. Researchers will investigate alternatives to fossil-based materials for plastics, will look into factors involved in the life cycle of plastic materials and how to best utilise technology to reclaim or break down plastics.

Science Minister, Chris Skidmore said: “We have all seen the devastating effects that plastics waste has on our environment, threatening the biodiversity of our oceans and introducing micro-plastics into the food chain. We are committed to tackling this problem, from developing a plastic-eating bacteria to finding new ways to recycle.  These projects have the potential to lead us to a cleaner, greener economy but also ensure the UK is at the forefront of the latest innovations and products that will be in high demand across the world through our modern Industrial Strategy.”


These eight new projects, which commence in early 2019, have £8 million funding behind them, and include the following:

  • Designing-out Plastic Waste (led by University College London): this will create a new bacteria-based recycling technology for plastics, which has the ability to consume plastics and break them down into reusable material. With this project a new Plastics Waste Innovation Hub is also to be created at University College London.
  • Evolving a circular plastics economy (led by the University of Hull): this seeks to develop biodegradable biopolymers.
  • RE3 ‚Äì 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 other five projects are as follows:

  • Exeter Multidisciplinary Plastics Research hub: ExeMPLaR (led by University of Exeter)
  • UKRI Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastic Waste (led by University of Cambridge)
  • Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (led by Queen‚Äôs University of Belfast)
  • Plastics: Redefining Single-Use (led by University of Sheffield)
  • Holistic integration of technology, design and policy for a greener plastic future (led by Imperial College London)


Professor Duncan Wingham, UK Research and Innovation’s Lead for the Plastics Research Innovation Fund and Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council explained: “These eight multidisciplinary research projects will lead the way in finding new solutions to our current use of plastics, through recycling methods and developing alternative materials. UKRI is drawing UK researchers together with companies to address the challenge of reducing plastic waste entering the environment and creating an economy that is free from plastic waste.”


UK Circular Plastics Network (UKCPN) is working closely with these projects. On 18th December, UKCPN hosted its first event in Birmingham alongside EPSRC, the Circular Plastics Portfolio Meeting. Programme Lead, Sally Beken remarked: “It was great to bring together and interact with the eight UK Universities who have each been awarded a substantial piece of funding to address the imperfect system we have with respect to plastic use. There was a real sense of shared responsibility and goals between the principal investigators.¬† Over the course of the academic programmes I am focussed on the UKCPN being able to assist the researchers in making the best impact by sharing knowledge and in facilitating collaborations with business that can realise the outcome of the research faster than without UKCPN support.”


Remember you can sign up to become a member of the UK Circular Plastics Network for free by clicking here.

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