Belfast Telegraph

Queen's awarded £1m for initiative aimed at tackling plastic waste

David Rooney
David Rooney

By James Gant

A major project involving a group of Northern Ireland academics will help tackle the problem of plastic waste.

Queen's University Belfast has been granted £1m for the new initiative.

The project, called Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions), will confront the 7.5 billion tonnes of plastic which has not been recycled.

If measured in plastic bottles, this is enough to cover us here to a depth of 40 metres.

Project leader Professor David Rooney, who is director of the Research Centre in Sustainable Energy at Queen's, said: "The world-leading, state-of-the-art facilities at Queen's make the university the ideal place to carry out this project.

"These facilities include the Polymer Processing Research Centre, a market-driven research centre which has been collaborating with industry since 1996.

"The outcome of the research carried out at Queen's is to create a sustainable and resilient plastics circular economy that will change how we deal with plastic waste, with the ultimate goal of creating a sustainable environment for future generations."

Professor Rooney will work with an 11-strong team of academics who are experts in politics, engineering, psychology and architecture.

They will tackle plastic waste problems by creating a sustainable plastics circular economy in the UK.

To do this, they will look to understand consumer behaviour and attitudes towards plastic.

Secondly, an assessment of the industry supply chain will be undertaken so hotspots can be identified and managed.

Lastly, they will work with industry to prototype building products that use significant quantities of recycled plastic waste.

It is hoped this will keep resources, including waste, in use for as long as possible.

Work is due to begin early next year.

The announcement was made by Science Minister Chris Skidmore as the Government unveiled its Resources and Waste Strategy.

Mr Skidmore said: "We have all seen the devastating effects that plastics waste has on our environment. 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."

The Government plans to put the legal onus on producers of damaging waste, introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses, and introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers.

Queen's was one of eight universities given a share of an £8m grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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