Exploring sustainable design for plastics and bioplastics
Project Goals and Description:
Plastics have been playing a vital role in the present day industrialized economy, resulting in the growing amount of plastic waste in the environment. This project helps us identify sustainable solutions for the prevalent industry of plastics. We will not only look at end of life of plastics, but we will use sustainability tools like life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and techno-economic analysis to look at manufacture and see where we are using these plastics. If we know where we are using certain plastics, how much quantities, and then where they go, we can make design changes to the types of plastics that are used for certain applications and perhaps impact the total environmental impacts and sustainability of the system. We know some plastics get recycled, but most of them go through other waste management methods. One of the knowledge gaps is plastics lost to the environment, plastics lost directly to the ocean. This work can improve our understanding of where we might make design changes, material changes, or insert new types of plastics to improve plastics waste management and loss. Using these tools during the design phase while designing these new solutions ensures that we avoid unintended consequences and make truly sustainable decisions. All of this helps us to understand where circular economy opportunities lie, which is a focus in various system solutions research that tackle global challenges.
Grand Challenge: Restore and improve urban infrastructure.
The Landis Sustainability Research Group at Mines: https://www.mines.edu/lsrg/ US Department of Energy - Plastics for a Circular Economy Workshop Summary. LSRG Colorado School of Mines lightening talk summarized on page 20: https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/downloads/plastics-circular-economy-workshop-summary-report Sustainable cycles and management of plastics: A brief review of RCR publications in 2019 and early 2020 (Chen et al, 2020): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344920301439?casa_token=zJ2MSaEMPjUAAAAA:43cQPFzOTRGkluUng_MwmrM_4nc96amjGbC_-wFT5qSzLNNjy9yQYUQBeWsgZGVFaucvxb33dXM
Dr. Amy Landis, firstname.lastname@example.org | Dr. VeeAnder Mealing, email@example.com
Basic excel skills and experience, creativity, organization skills, interest in environmental issues
TIME COMMITMENT (HRS/WK)
Students will learn or hone scientific research and writing skills, gain increased understanding of plastics material flows, develop skills in sustainability tools like material flow analysis (MFA) & Life cycle analysis (LCA), and gain increased understanding of circular economy sustainable solutions
The student will meet one-on-one, weekly or bi-weekly with LSRG graduate students and post doc (and Dr. Amy Landis as needed) for project planning and progress reports. The graduate student mentors will also be available to the student throughout the fellowship to answer questions and assist with technical skills development. When available, the student will also join weekly LSRG meetings to participate in professional development activities
PREFERRED STUDENT STATUS