A group of five PhD students from the University of Portsmouth (UoP) is to study the problem of marine pollution caused by plastic packaging.

Working across several faculties and disciplines, the researchers will form an interdisciplinary cluster under the supervision of senior scientists.

The researchers will each be funded for a period of four years and are expected to deliver a total of 20 years’ worth of research.

During their study, the research group will share knowledge and research to develop solutions to the issue of plastic packaging.

In a statement, UoP said the research programme builds on the university’s ‘extensive expertise and global reputation in plastics’.

The researchers will work on projects such as engineering enzymes and processes for recycling single-use plastics, as well as developing sustainable biodegradable packaging.

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Some will be involved in researching the formation of microplastic pollution by pure and composite plastic packaging products, while others will investigate the role of ‘design for circularity’ in the transition to a circular plastics economy.

UoP revolution plastics and global plastic policy centre director Professor Steve Fletcher said: “Relatively little is known about how and what speed plastic packaging degenerates in the environment and how industry practice could help to end the damaging impact of plastics. 

“In order to develop meaningful solutions, it is vital to better understand the products causing the pollution, how they pollute and how their damage can be reduced.

“Having a dedicated team of scientists is really going to help accelerate our search for solutions.

“This opportunity is likely to create critical impact that spans the whole supply chain of plastic.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the PhD cluster means that new knowledge is not produced in isolation, but in a way that ensures all areas inform each other.”

The research programme is backed by UK-based material technology company Aquapak.