Skip to main content

Eliminating avoidable single-use plastic packaging in the UK

In the UK, the plastics industry places approximately 5 million tonnes of plastics onto the UK market each year, of which approximately 2.2 million tonnes is packaging. Most of the plastic packaging waste produced in the UK is incinerated or landfilled. These waste management methods (incineration, landfill) are not considered to be sustainable, and the UK’s recycling industry is now under pressure to procure innovative processes to recycle plastic packaging waste, with a view to improve the circular economy.

In 2018 the UK Plastics Pact, a voluntary agreement to tackle the issue of plastic waste through collaboration across the entire supply chain, has set a number of ambitious targets. One of these targets are to eliminate unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery model. This project using the complex value optimisation for resource recovery (CVORR) approach will investigate how interventions in the single-use plastic packaging system will help to eliminate the production and use of avoidable single-use plastic packaging, linking to the concept of circular economy and the targets set by the UK Plastic Pact.

To achieve that he project will map the plastic packaging used by different sectors (applications), and polymer type, and explore the benefits and trade-offs associated with the use of different packages. The interactions between the plastic packaging and the products it contains will come under scrutiny in order to exploit synergies between processes and systems (e.g. food-packaging, packaging-goods). This assessment will involve different time scales and climatic or storage conditions, from the point of manufacture up to the point of consumption, in order to make recommendations for which packages can be avoidable. The CVORR approach will then be used to map the mass and monetary flows in order to explicitly identify the various applications, processes, technologies and stakeholders involved in the specific single-use plastic packages that can be avoidable, in order to understand the interventions needed to support their elimination. Using casual loop diagrams the project will also attempt to visualize the dynamics of the single-use plastic packaging value chain system, and the power relations between different stakeholders in order to support decision- and policy-making in this area.



WRAP (2018) The UK Plastics Pact, available: [accessed 22 February 2019].

Iacovidou, E., J. Millward-Hopkins, J. Busch, P. Purnell, C. A. Velis, J. N. Hahladakis, O. Zwirner and A. Brown (2017). A pathway to circular economy: Developing a conceptual framework for complex value assessment of resources recovered from waste. Journal of Cleaner Production 168: 1279-1288.

Iacovidou, E., C. A. Velis, P. Purnell, O. Zwirner, A. Brown, J. Hahladakis, J. Millward-Hopkins and P. T. Williams (2017). Metrics for optimising the multi-dimensional value of resources recovered from waste in a circular economy: A critical review. Journal of Cleaner Production 166: 910-938.


How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.