Staff Services Student Enterprise

Plastic waste on planet Earth is a growing problem that is being addressed by several innovative research projects at the University of Edinburgh.

These have the potential to create new product solutions for various industry sectors and hope for the future of the environment.

Bacteria serve a tasty solution to the plastic crisis

Plastic waste, particularly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), poses a significant global issue, with around 50 million tonnes produced annually. Current recycling methods for PET yield less valuable products, exacerbating the problem.

University of Edinburgh researchers Dr Joanna Sadler and Dr Stephen Wallace discovered that common E. coli bacteria can be engineered to transform post-consumer plastic into vanillin, the primary component of vanilla flavouring. Vanillin is in high demand globally and is used in various industries.

Read more

It’s a wrap on waste plastic

Dr Dipa Roy from the School of Engineering has identified the potential for waste soft plastics, which are very low value and mechanically low performing, to be combined with waste glass fibres to create composites. This new composite material can be both rigid and flexible in a range of thicknesses so that it can be easily moulded into various shapes and sizes. This offers huge potential for their application for example in the construction industry.

Read more

picture of overturned test tube spilling plastic beads

Plastics – turning a problem into a force for good

It’s important to recognise the positive role that plastics play in helping us develop future technologies that will drive environmental improvements and safeguard food supplies for a growing global population.

The challenge is to address the escalating production of plastics and their detrimental environmental effects while simultaneously innovating sustainable methods for plastic production. This dual approach aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a circular economy.

Dr Jennifer Garden’s research group in the School of Chemistry is focused on three key areas around plastics production:

(1) how to incorporate the use of more renewable resources in plastic manufacturing;

(2) how to make efficiencies in the manufacturing processes; and

(3) how to make plastics more recyclable and/or biodegradable.

Read more

Work with our experts

To find out how you can work with the University of Edinburgh’s expertise for solutions to plastic waste, please contact Dr Lorna Jack or Dr John Morrow

Dr Lorna Jack

Business Development Executive
School of Engineering
Institute for Materials & Processes
Institute for Infrastructure & Environment

Dr John Morrow

Business Development Executive
College of Science and Engineering
Chemistry and Biology

Making ideas work for a better world

People Places Planet

Join us and discover the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading circular economy expertise. Discover how you can work with us as we invite you to a campus that gives you full access to our academic researchers, projects, partners and data-driven innovation.
Discover more