used plastic bottles

New £1 Million Research Project At The Grantham Centre To Re-Think Plastics Production And Use

Plastics: Redefining Single-Use is a new multidisciplinary research project announced on December 18th by the Science Minister. This £1 million collaboration at the Grantham Centre brings together world-class experts from across academic disciplines to address the ecological and societal problems posed by plastics. Sign up to our newsletter or find us on Twitter @granthamcsf to follow our progress. 

The project: You can buy the product but rent the packaging

Plastics: Redefining Single-Use will challenge the perceived wisdom of a throw-away culture of degradable plastics.

There is currently 7.3 billion tons of plastic on Earth

We will stimulate creative thinking across disciplines and explore novel solutions to problems caused by plastic.

Our research will create a strong basis on which to synthesise evidence and formulate policy advice with regards to a new vision for plastic. The goal is a move towards a zero-waste, circular economy for plastics by reusing more, reducing use and recycling better.

And we will examine how single-use plastics are currently used and understood. Our focus will be on medical products, food and fast-moving consumer goods packaging, and ingredients. Materials selection and production will be analysed with a view to balancing benefits (e.g. product protection) against the current fate of plastics (e.g. landfill, recycling, pollution). 

The project has four main themes:

  • technological feasibility
  • environmental and techno-economic assessment 
  • understanding social change 
  • enabling behavioural, organisational and social change


Different teams will work on different aspects of these themes, such as consumer practice, sustainable recycling, and the chemistry of plastic.

The team – multidisciplinary experts

Led by Grantham Centre experts Professor Anthony Ryan and Dr Rachael Rothman, the ethos behind Plastics: Redefining Single-Use is one that underpins the Grantham Centre. We believe that truly creative and novel ideas occur at the interfaces between disciplines.

As such we have chemists, biologists, psychologists, dentists, engineers, social scientists, geographers, and politics and language experts from all career stages working together. They aim to understand human behaviour and promote change on individual, societal and cultural levels. We will also be holding workshops for a range of stakeholders from industry, business, policy and recycling.

Our Funding

Funded by the UKRI the project will commence in January 2019 and run for 18 months. This grant is part of £8 million pounds awarded to various research groups all tackling the plastics pollution problem.

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