Plastic pollution emission factors measurement and modelling for macro-plastic waste

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering


Plastic pollution is now recognised as one of the major global sustainability challenges of our times. The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) have recently agreed on a landmark resolution for a global treaty to "end plastic pollution" - heralded as the "most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord". In that respect, developing the fundamental science and engineering associated with the plastics released in to the environment will be critical. The research team at the University of Leeds have been working at the forefront of quantifying plastic pollution at various scales, though a combination of models and data acquisition and systems assessment methodologies, which are widely used around the world: Increasingly, modelling is employed to develop our understanding of such a complex phenomenon, with interaction of martial properties, geography, environment and human societal behaviour. For example, the Plastics to Ocean (P2O) model released in Science, is coupling circular economy with, waste and resource management and leakage into the environment to offer a holistic approach. It has been used as the core evidence for the proposed resolution by the countries that put it forward. The model SPOT offers cutting edge local to global plastic pollution quantification for macro-plastic items and is used by the UN-Habitat and reported in the UN Environment Data Hub (GPML) to provide the first global assessment of how cities around the world are managing their waste (SDG 11.6.1).

However, major quantification questions remain open. This provides an opportunity to leave contribute towards major scientific and engineering breakthrough. In particular, the project will focus on the emission factors - the rate of macro-plastics items leaking into the environment; and how they move, depending on the environment and the forces acting upon them. The candidate will be devising and conducting hands-on bench and large scale experiments, using specialist equipment (cameras, drones) and analysing sensor-based data along with Geographical Information Systems, to quantify such emission factors for the very first time.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2744795 Studentship EP/R513258/1 30/09/2022 30/08/2023 Matthew Elcoate