Skip to main content

Improving the management of plastic packaging waste

Multidimensional Value Metrics for Assessing England's Plastic Packaging System and Monitoring Associated Targets

The project was carried out in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and aimed to improve the management of plastic packaging waste. It mapped out and examined the plastic packaging system in England, and identified ‘intelligent’ new metrics that can be used for monitoring and assessing progress against Government targets. The project employed the Complex Value Optimisation for Resource Recovery (CVORR) approach in supporting the selection of metrics that are easy to understand by policy-makers and easy for citizens to see why they matter in a policy context. CVORR is a systems of systems approach and a methodology for monitoring progress within a network of interconnected systems. The project's report titled "Plastic Packaging - How do we get to where we want to be?" has been published on the DEFRA website in order to disseminate the findings broadly to UK local authorities. 

The research report helped policy makers gain a better understanding of the plastic packaging system and how it operates including where inefficiencies arise in the system. It brought into the spotlight the concept of ‘producer responsibility’ for plastic waste, which has given DEFRA tangible evidence that the private sector is capturing value within the plastic packaging waste system at the expense of local authorities. This supports arguments and strategies that the producers should pay more than they currently do (e.g. via a taxation on production). The metrics recommended in the report are under consideration by Defra which is working on incorporating some of these into their new strategy with regard to recycling plastic packaging. The project has further helped DEFRA develop its strategy on environmental impact, specifically on litter and fly-tipping, and are using the report as evidence when reporting on their responsibilities to regulatory authorities.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Eleni Iacovidou
Dr Eleni Iacovidou - My research focuses on environmental management, with emphasis on resource and waste management systems. Specifically, I develop methods for performing holistic and integrated environmental, economic, social and technical assessments of resource recovery systems based on a systems thinking approach. Using this approach, I combine environmental science and engineering with an understanding of the political, organisational, structural and cultural aspects that act synergistically in a resource recovery system to highlight areas of intervention for promoting sustainability. My research is predominantly desktop based and focuses on four key areas: food waste prevention and management  plastic and plastic packaging system assessment construction components reuse and modular structures waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) repair and reuse I am also interested in the implications of technological and regulatory lock-ins, the role of stakeholders in sustainability transitions, the impact of informal recycling systems on environment and society, in waste infrastructure availability and adaptation based on area-specific characteristics, the use of smart technologies for tracking components and products across the value chain, and in circular economy.

Related Research Group(s)


Sustainable Plastics - SPLaSH group combines the strengths of social scientists in the Department of Social and Political Sciences with colleagues working in the area of plastic pollution from Environmental Sciences, Design, Business & Marketing, and Engineering. We are leading experts on behaviour change, public health protection, resource and waste management, governance aspects and sustainability design.

scientist testing water next to plant

Pollution Research and Policy - Predictive approaches in toxicology, including combined chemical exposures and development of new frameworks for non-animal approaches for predicting toxicity; Endocrine disruptor research with an emphasis on mechanisms of disease and test method development; Pollution monitoring, clean-up technologies and chemical analytics.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 09/01/2024