Automatgenererad bild.
Published

6 May 2015

Focus on sustainable plastic
in new call

A new Mistra programme is to make the plastics industry more sustainable and, it is hoped, help the Swedish processing industry to become more competitive. Interested groups of researchers and companies can, between now and September, apply for funding in the call for proposals on ‘Plastic in a Sustainable Society’.

Plastic is both cheap and easy to make, and its uses are almost unlimited. These advantages are nevertheless a disadvantage from the environmental point of view. For example, it costs less to make new plastic than to reuse discarded products. This is how Christopher Folkeson Welch at Mistra describes the background to the new call. He emphasises that it represents a practical view of the central role of plastic in present-day society.

‘You can’t ban or restrict the use of plastics. On the other hand,’ he says, ‘you can try to make their production and use more sustainable.’

Involving the business sector important

The call is to focus on solving practical environmental problems, rather than on studying environmental effects related to plastic. This is why it is vital for industrial enterprises to be included in the applications. Of the total budget for this research programme, SEK 60 million over four years, Mistra is contributing SEK 45 million. The remainder will come from those involved in the application.

‘We see this as a guarantee that industry will take part and the results will bring about practical benefits. We hope that the programme will strengthen the plastics industry in Sweden and that we’ll kick-start the use of renewable raw materials,’ says Folkeson Welch.

One key challenge is to develop new technical solutions. What is required is, first, to produce plastic with renewable raw materials and, second, to develop new and less toxic additives. Another central question is how to reuse, remanufacture and recycle plastic more.

‘Plastic that already exists in the system must be reusable, for example as a raw material for new plastic. But this means that, for instance, efficient sorting of various types of plastic must be carried out. This is an issue that should include both the recycling industry and manufacturing,’ says Folkeson Welch.

Broad system approach required

Apart from technical resource measures, the research programme should have an overall system approach and include studies of collaboration among various stakeholders, from raw-material suppliers and recycling companies to consumers. Research should also be done to develop new business models and control instruments.

The call will start in April and go on until September 2015. After that, an international expert group will examine the applications and invite applicants to a hearing in October. In December, Mistra’s Board will decide which application is receive funds. If all goes to plan, the hope is that it will be possible to start the research during the first quarter of 2016.

Contact

Christopher Folkeson Welch

0707-323074, chris.welch@mistra.org

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