University of Portsmouth scientists awarded £5.8m to help find new ways to recycle plastic waste

Plastic waste on a beach
Plastic waste on a beach
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Promoted by University of Portsmouth

  University of Portsmouth scientists, who have engineered an enzyme that can break down some of the world’s most commonly polluting plastics, have been awarded £5.8m through the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

The investment from the Research England Expanding Excellence Fund, coupled with significant investment by the University of Portsmouth, will speed up progress towards finding a solution to one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges – plastic waste.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over. This programme led by the University of Portsmouth will look at how enzymes can break down single-use plastics and help cut plastics pollution.”

In April 2018, researchers led by Professor John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth and Dr Gregg Beckham at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, announced they had engineered an enzyme which could digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, returning it to its original monomers, or building blocks.

PET plastic is commonly used to make the 20,000 single-use plastic bottles manufactured every second worldwide. The team’s discovery paved the way for a future in which PET could be infinitely recycled, re-used, and even made into higher value materials – a fundamental shift in recycling.

The funding will allow the appointment of both junior and senior researcher scientists to join the expanding team at the University of Portsmouth’s newly established Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI).

Professor McGeehan, who is Director of the CEI, said: ‘This is a global challenge that requires a global team and it is incredibly exciting that Portsmouth is trailblazing research and innovation in this key area.’

The centre will focus on finding enzymes capable of breaking down different types of plastic and then engineering these to be fast enough to be deployed at industrial recycling facilities.

International architectural competition for new University of Portsmouth building

The University of Portsmouth is delighted to announce the opening of an international design competition for a new flagship academic building in Victoria Park. The competition will be managed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and is expected to draw entries from architects around the world.

The University is ambitious for a building that will inspire and excite students, staff and the wider community, and become a symbol of pride for the people of Portsmouth.

A shortlist of five designs will be chosen in July 2019 by RIBA with an emphasis on quality and exceptional design. Shortlisted entrants will present their plans and ideas in October to a panel of senior University staff which will make the final decision.

What can your business do to reduce plastic waste?

Consumers are demanding that plastic packaging does not damage the environment, but what about the 40 per cent of UK plastic waste that does not directly interact with consumers and is not recycled?

The UK Circular Plastics Network (UKCPN) is running an event on Wednesday 3 July at the University of Portsmouth to introduce potential funding opportunities for your business and to understand the challenges of plastic waste, both now and in the future. For more information, or to book a place, please call 023 9284 6191 or email researchandinnovation@port.ac.uk.