Tackling Plastic Marine Litter in the North Sea: vacancy

17 August 2012

As part of the global trend towards a more sustainable pattern of consumption and production, efforts are increasing to find solutions for the problem of the of plastic waste in the oceans. This waste, known as Plastic Soup, or Plastic Marine Litter,(PML), consists mainly of packaging with short-lived applications and plastic from land-based consumption and marine activities such as fisheries and shipping. PML causes economic damage and has a negative impact on the marine environment, with potential harmful consequences in the food chain and for humans. Local authorities and the tourism sector spend millions of euro every year cleaning up and preventing litter on beaches.

Closing the loop for plastic products with a short-lived application is a quick win solution, since it could quickly reduce the volume of PML that is produced. It is a solution that can be accomplished with the existing knowledge of materials and in principle would not require expensive fundamental research into new product properties and/or processing methods. In the autumn of 2010, a number of parties, including DPI, will launch a research programme aimed at closing the loop for 0.5-liter plastic beverage bottles in the Netherlands. According to monitoring data from the Drifting along the Seashore project, this product is one of the top ten causes of pollution on beaches. Monitoring of beaches has also shown that bottles and bottle tops are major items of litter along the North Sea coastline of the Netherlands and other countries.

With this project DPI and DPI Value Centre and its partners in the chain (including producers of raw materials, retailers and waste companies) plan to develop concepts for a closed loop system for companies and public space that could be used for various types of packaging. The aim of the research programme is to provide insight into shortcomings in the collection of 0.5-litre plastic beverage bottles and bottle tops. The project is designed to map the supply chain in plastic bottles in the Netherlands in order to identify the links that do or do not cause pollution. An important first step in the process will be to quantify the mass flows, quantities and geographic distribution of these bottles, which will give an indication of where the leaks to the environment occur and how great they are.


The figure above illustrates the life cycle of plastic beverage bottles. The red arrows indicate where leaks could occur in the product's life cycle. Clearly identifying these leaks and how they are caused is essential for finding potential solutions, which could in theory be found at every link in the chain. Following an initial selection of potential solutions on the basis of a feasibility study, one of more will be selected to be fleshed out in separate programmes by the appropriate partners in the chain.

We are looking for a Master's student who would like to assist in the research for this project. Click here for further information.