Sarah Kakadellis

Thesis title:

Assessing the suitability of bioplastics in anaerobic digestion within the bioeconomy


Our Blue Planet – or Plastic Planet? The use of plastics is a contentious issue at the heart of our throw-away society. Packaging accounts for the largest application of plastics, with single-use food and drink plastic packaging being one of the most common items found in our oceans. This poses a serious threat to the integrity of our ecosystems while creating an unprecedented waste management problem.

The recent years have placed plastic pollution under growing public scrutiny and both industrial and political landscapes have been called upon to propose innovative approaches, including ‘greener’ plastic materials. The biodegradable properties of some plant-based plastics (bioplastics), have been identified as a promising opportunity to address this societal and environmental challenge. They represent a solution for food packaging applications by preserving food without persisting in the environment, particularly marine. However, such bio-based biodegradable alternatives may not necessarily provide an improvement in overall environmental impact and little is known about their biodegradation efficacy in given waste streams.

Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, Sarah’s research project explores bioplastics waste management and addresses their suitability in anaerobic digestion. Chemical and microbiological characterisation will provide an insight into the advantages and limitations they may present in the current European industrial strategy context. To support the experimental research, further engagement with stakeholders in the industry and policy sectors aims to identify the challenges and barriers that exist from a ‘real-world’ perspective. Ultimately, the focus of this thesis is on ensuring that their promotion within a bioeconomy framework is based on environmentally-sound evidence.

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First supervisor:

Zoe M_Harris


9 – Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health