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Durham University

Research & business

Reducing the plastic mountain

(26 June 2019)

How three students are trying to reduce the plastic mountain

Every single minute, a truck load of plastic ends up in our oceans, killing millions of animals every year. This is only going to get worse unless we do something about it.

That’s exactly what Scott, Natasha and Phil decided to do.

As Chemistry PhD students with a passion for saving our planet, they have come up with an idea which could make a real difference to reducing plastic waste.

Recycling plastic

The team has developed a technique which processes plastic waste, in particular tough-to-recycle mixed and low-grade plastic, and turns it into aggregate for concrete. Their novel product can replace traditional aggregates and is light-weight, eco-friendly and thermally insulating.

Recycling plastic waste in this way can stop it from being incinerated or ending up in landfill, which is a major environmental problem.

When plastic waste is sent for incineration, it releases a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and the plastic at landfill sites can leach harmful chemicals into the environment, such as into groundwater.

Award-winning enterprise

What started out as a challenge as part of a mini MBA has now turned into a start-up business, called Plastech Innovation, which will spin-out from the University later this year.

With the help of business and enterprise support from within the University, Scott, Natasha and Phil have already managed to secure funding and won a number of awards for their business.

They walked away as winners at the annual BrightSCIdea competition, won the Shell LiveWIRE April Smarter Future Award and the Blueprint StartUp Challenge. They have also got a place on the Durham City Incubator accelerator programme for entrepreneurs.

The young scientists are part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces (SOFI CDT) at Durham. This centre trains students to become science and enterprise leaders through a programme of industrially integrated postgraduate training.

So, take three brainy PhD students with an idea, a passion for the environment, brilliant chemistry expertise, integrated postgraduate training and out comes a business that could make a significant positive impact on our planet.

Watch this space……..

Find out more

From left: Scott Bush, Natasha Boulding and Phil Buckley