Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions)

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: The Vice Chancellors Office

Abstract

The rapidly worsening problem of the accumulation of wast plastics in the environment has been highlighted by recent media attention. Waste plastics impact on health, the environment and the economy currently, it represents inefficient use of the planet's reserve of oil.

This ambitious, pioneering proposal explicitly frames the opportunities to realise a sustainable and resilient plastics circular economy within a 'socio-technological transitions' approach that integrates innovation and creative design thinking across technological, policy, consumer behaviour and supply chain management domains. It leverages against a network of key stakeholders combining government, industry and academia to achieve its aims and is geographically focused within a representative region of the UK.

Integration and management of logistics is a fundamental dimension of organisational strategy within manufacturing, and an understanding of the supply chain is crucial for the development of a circular plastics economy. Within the supply chain, the potential of the exemplar projects needs to be assessed, particularly with respect to energy, carbon and cost implications, so that hotspots can be identified and managed, and impacts relative to the baseline can be assessed.

A 2015 ReNEW report into the Circular Economy in Northern Ireland (NI) estimated that more than 13,000 jobs could be created if the province moved to an innovative circular economy, prompting Derry City and Strabane District Council to develop a "zero waste circular economy" strategy. However, the need to support the value chain within the UK is critical: as exemplified by Closed Loop Recycling Ltd., who, despite significant investment, went into administration (2015) due to the higher cost of recycled PET vs that of the virgin material. Parallels can thus be drawn with the renewable energy market where low cost oil and gas hampered growth thereby necessitating policy interventions. Furthermore, improving the resilience of the sector by improving the connectivity of the supply chain and providing raw material assurances as well as understanding longer term stakeholder expectations of the plastics circular economy are important considerations. Unlike renewable energy it can be argued that the size of such an economy needs to contract until it is matched by the sectors ability to sustainably produce the monomer constituents. Such technologies exist but at present these are generally not economical. This highlights the sector's need to transition to a downsized circular economy when compared to current potential levels and hence it is important to consider policy innovations needed to both support 'just transitions' which lead to the creation of 'green and decent' jobs.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from this research?

Belfast City Council
Cherry Pipes

How might they benefit from this research?

Policy
Economics
Environment
Society
Technology

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Findings are being used in conjunction with the Education Authority in Northern Ireland to reduce costs associated with wastes, including single use plastics, across schools. The evidence and data analysis is being used to bench mark costs.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Involvement in Venture School initiative run by the CirPlas project involving the training of students and external parties in entrepreneurial activities
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Involvement with Education Authority on influencing policy towards the reporting of wastes within schools
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund - ESRC Internal Business Boost Funding (to study attitudes towards bio-based and recycled plastics)
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation Queen's University Belfast 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2019 
End 09/2019
 
Title Plastic waste arisings in Northern Ireland 
Description It should be noted that this is a work in progress. It has been presented in a Symposium, however we are refining our estimates by including the detailed linkages between socio-economic factors and plastic waste generation, for publication. There are concerns related to the end of life of plastics, resulting in increasing scientific scrutiny and growing public awareness. There is an estimated global stockpile of about 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste with the EU generating around 26 million tonnes annually. The amount of plastic packaging waste generated in the UK was about 2.2 million tonnes in 2017. The UK Plastics Pact (2018) aims to transform the UK packaging plastic sector. However, there is a dearth of studies explaining the present plastics economy in Northern Ireland (N Ireland). Using the municipal plastic waste arisings recycling data from the council databases, data of municipal plastic waste arisings sent to landfills from RX34, and the commercial waste plastic arisings data from WRAP5, a Sankey diagram was produced to illustrate the plastic waste flows in the region. Using ArcGIS, spatial maps of the distribution of the municipal plastic waste arisings recycled on a council area basis were produced by taking values from council databases. The amount of plastic waste generated in N Ireland in 2017 was estimated to be 0.12 million tonnes. Whilst, 47 thousand tonnes were sent for recycling and recovery. 64% of plastic waste generated was from municipal waste streams (2017), which can be reduced by incorporating changes in household activities such as by taking active measures to recycle packaging materials. In N Ireland, plastic recyclers and collectors, such as Bryson recycling, Cherry Pipes Ltd, etc. recycle plastic waste from municipal arisings, farms and complex post manufacturing arisings. A closed loop plastics economy is yet to be achieved in N Ireland. Potential solutions to achieve a closed loop are incentives to reduce plastic waste to both consumers and industries, energy recovery and products manufacturing from plastic waste. This is the first study giving details on plastic waste sources, management and destination in N Ireland. This information will form the basis of future research in the plastics economy in N Ireland as part of the ACCEPT Transitions project including: Analysis of the linkages between socio-economic factors and plastic waste generation. And refining the quantities of plastic waste according to these factors. Assessment of the variations in plastic waste generation from 2012 to 2017 (and possibly 2019-2020 depending on data availability from Wastedataflow) and its underlying impacts. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This is the first study giving details on plastic waste sources, management and destination in N Ireland. This information will form the basis of future research in the plastics economy in N Ireland. 
 
Description Collaboration with E-JUST University (Egypt Japan University Of Science & Technology) 
Organisation Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology
Country Egypt 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ahmed Osman helped in initiating the collaboration between the two teams with the PI (Prof.David Rooney) from QUB and Prof.Sobhy from E-JUST university. That collaboration included access to data, equipment or facilities along with future collaboration on possible funding.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborators from E-JUST provide access to data that will benefit the current ACCEPT project in terms of mapping and understanding the current global plastic waste and also establishing a future collaboration between the two teams.
Impact There is ongoing research work on the data and mapping between the two multi-disciplinary teams with a possible publication.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with University College London 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Life cycle assessment using SimaPro for the conversion of healthcare plastic waste to fuels.
Collaborator Contribution Inputs in model development.
Impact The output from this work, has been accepted for oral presentation in the International Conference on Resource Sustainability, Dublin (30 June-2 July 2020).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with researchers in EIT Food project 
Organisation European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
Country Hungary 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Involvement in waste mapping
Collaborator Contribution Waste Mapping and Characterisation: Applications in Biopolymer Development
Impact The work relates to the development of maps for agri-food resources for biopolymer production. The results from the work are accepted for presentation in International Conference on Resource Sustainability (Dublin, 30 June-2 July 2020).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Critical user involvement 
Organisation Guide Dogs for Blind Association
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have been working with the local (Northern Ireland) branch of Guide Dogs to include their service users in developing our understanding of how they experience building products made from recycled plastics.
Collaborator Contribution Guide Dogs have facilitated access to their service users by identifying and recruiting research participants and facilitating group meetings.
Impact The collaboration has resulted in the collection of data from Guide Dogs service users that will contribute to the project objectives.
Start Year 2020
 
Description International research cooperation with the Laboratory of Sustainable Polymeric Materials (LAMPOLS) of the Brazilian Institute of Macromolecules Professor Eloisa Mano (IMA), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) 
Organisation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of composite materials using virgin plastics/concrete waste and virgin plastics/red mud.
Collaborator Contribution Organifoilisation of inorganic fillers with stearic acid.
Impact This joint work improved the compatibility and adhesion of concrete waste and red mud to the polymeric matrix, resulting in better dispersion of the filler in the composite.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Plastic waste flows in Northern Ireland 
Organisation Belfast City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration to quantify plastic waste quantities and management routes in Northern Ireland.
Collaborator Contribution Formal analysis of the data and the methods to estimate plastic waste.
Impact The outputs from this research collaboration has been compiled and presented in the Second Joint NSFC-RSC Symposium on Sustainable Chemistry and Processes, University of York.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Plastic waste flows in Northern Ireland 
Organisation Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration to quantify plastic waste quantities and management routes in Northern Ireland.
Collaborator Contribution Formal analysis of the data and the methods to estimate plastic waste.
Impact The outputs from this research collaboration has been compiled and presented in the Second Joint NSFC-RSC Symposium on Sustainable Chemistry and Processes, University of York.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Plastic waste flows in Northern Ireland 
Organisation Waste and Resources Action Programme
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research collaboration to quantify plastic waste quantities and management routes in Northern Ireland.
Collaborator Contribution Formal analysis of the data and the methods to estimate plastic waste.
Impact The outputs from this research collaboration has been compiled and presented in the Second Joint NSFC-RSC Symposium on Sustainable Chemistry and Processes, University of York.
Start Year 2019
 
Description The winner of the international plastic competition 
Organisation Port Said University
Country Egypt 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The winner of the international plastic competition visited Queen's University on the week of 15-23th of February 2020 to work on his idea "Upcycling of plastic wastes and biological wastes as an ecofriendly scenario for water refinement"
Collaborator Contribution The team provides access to the lab and conducted the required experiments for that work with a possible publication in the near future.
Impact Peer-reviewed publication
Start Year 2020
 
Description University of York 
Organisation University of York
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have partnered with complementary expertise. QUB provides the growth models for designs to York who use these in their evolutionary models.
Collaborator Contribution We have partnered with complementary expertise. QUB provides the growth models for designs to York who use these in their evolutionary models.
Impact output number 4 - submitted for conference.
Start Year 2017
 
Description MISTRAL-ITN Early Stage Researchers Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The oral presentation was delivered as part of the Summer School lecture of MISTRAL - International Training Network (Horizon 2020) on the milestones, journey and challenges during PhD (Things I wish I knew when I started my PhD).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk entitled 'Is sustainability possible in the plastics economy?' was delivered by Dr. Beatrice Smyth to general public and members of Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, which led to interesting discussion on the developments in the plastics sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description EPS Postdoc Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In November 2019, EPS Postdoc Society organised the first training program for Postdoctoral Researchers from Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty for Postdoctoral Funding Opportunities & Rights. During this a talk was delivered to present the needs of EPS Postdoc Society, Challenges of Postdocs, next steps for the society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Life Cycle PRIF First Network meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Life cycle work packages in the PRIF Network had the first meeting. The oral presentation detailed the objectives and results from WP2 of Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Life Cycle PRIF Network Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Second Meeting of PRIF network was attended by the Postdoctoral researchers and the investigators in Life Cycle Assessment group. The oral presentation highlighted the outputs of WP2 of Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description PRIF ECR Conference, University of Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Three Postdoctoral researchers (Caoimhe Ní Dhónaill, Róisín McConnell, Neha Mehta) from Queen's University Belfast presented the work conducted as part of the project Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological-Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions) in the PRIF Early Career Researchers Conference (University of Sheffield, Feb. 2020).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Plastic episode -01 (public engagement) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The first plastic episode was released on the 30th of January to increase the public awareness of the plastic problem globally with 473,681 Views on the social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.facebook.com/3elmTube1/videos/118785002822152/
 
Description Plastic episode -02 (public engagement) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The second plastic episode was released on the 6th of February on Ahmed's Scientific channel. That episode discussed the challenges associated with plastic recycling with overall 385,877 Views on social media websites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.facebook.com/3elmTube1/videos/481814832483874/
 
Description Plastic episode- 03 (public engagement) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The third and final plastic episode was released on the 13th of February on the future and innovative solutions for the plastic problem with 599,163 Views on social media websites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.facebook.com/3elmTube1/videos/2236113850025952/
 
Description Poster presentation, Second Joint NSFC-RSC Symposium on Sustainable Chemistry and Processes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Poster entitled 'Sustainable routes for the plastics economy: A study of the scale of the problem, current legislation and solutions' was presented in University of York.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description QUB Postdoc Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact About 100-120 Postdoctoral researchers across various faculties in Queen's University Belfast attended the Pitch Presentation during the Postdoc National Appreciation week in 2019. During the presentation the highlights of the research on plastic waste were delivered under the title 'Plastic plastic everywhere but not any fish in the ocean'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/StaffGateway/News/QueenscelebratesitspostdocsatPostdocShowcase2019.html
 
Description SPaRK COFUND cohort development week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The SPaRK COFUND (Marie Sklodowska-Curie doctoral training) programme had its second full cohort development week and the themes of the week were Collaboration and Internationalisation.I took part in Netwroking Lunch to discuss the Dos and Don'ts of international collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The Plastic Waste Solution (NI Science Festival 2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Now is the time for a radical change in how we deal with plastic waste. If we fail, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans by 2050. Mark Miodownik and a panel of experts from Queen's University (ACCEPT project) gave talks on the new research, technology, and social movements promising to create a zero-waste economy and find out how you can get involved and make a difference. This event is part of our Innovate UK Grand Challenges series which focuses on the global trends which will transform our futures.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://nisciencefestival.com/event.php?e=93