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Plastic: solution or pollution? Closing the loop towards a circular economy.

Finding new areas of application for recycled plastics.
Sustainable Cities and Communities; Clean Water and Sanitation; Responsible Consumption and Production

About The Challenge

Without plastics our world of today would be unthinkable. There are hardly any consumer products that work without. Yet – as it is made of mineral oil - plastics is a good far too valuable to waste and can do serious damage, when it doesn’t get recycled properly. Nevertheless, our fullest innovation potential needs to be unfolded until plastics usage has fully transformed into circular value chains. 

The Circular Economy is one of those fields, which is decisive for the reaching climate change goals and working towards a future without waste. 

Expected impact

Plastic is a material that revolutionized our society due to its versatility and capacity to be used in diverse applications. The problem lies in where the material ends up after being used by the consumer and the value that it is lost as waste. It is essential to identify the areas where it is possible to have a closed-loop cycle - including reducing, reusing and recycling – of the material towards a circular economy. 

We hope to find an innovative solution to transform the plastic usage from linear into a circular value chain. To reduce the plastic waste and create a world worth living in for future generations.

Expectations from students

The first part (1st interim presentation) will consist of identifying a (general) plastic or plastic-containing product that is consumed in large quantities and mapping its life cycle (from origin to disposal). 

Then explore the possibilities for the product to be reused, redesigned or recycled. It is important to establish the advantages and disadvantages of each of the alternatives or if the process would be continuous (it should be redesigned, then reused and finally recycled). An investigation of the current solutions in the market is fundamental to explore in which new areas the product could be employed either after use or after being recycled.

Considerations such as what type of technology or systems would be necessary to recycle the material should be taken into account as well as evaluating, from the point of view of the consumer and producer, what would be the most profitable and viable option (2nd interim presentation). 

In the end, a solution must be presented that contains: 

  1. The chosen plastic product
  2. Its current life cycle
  3. Options to have a closed-loop cycle (reuse, redesign, recycling)


The project will be run over an eight-week period, 08.08.2022 – 26.09.2022with the following schedule: 

  • Kick-off session: August 8th, 9:30 – 12:00 (CET) 
  • First interim presentation: August 22nd, 10:00 – 12:00 (CET) 
  • Second interim presentation: September 5th, 10:00 – 12:00 (CET)
  • Closing event: September 26th, 9:30 – 12:00 (CET) 

Format: Hybrid - The meetings will be held online but the final event would be done in Hamburg to improve the exchange of knowledge and networking between the students involved / TU Hamburg and Otto Krahn Group. This final event will also be held online for the people who cannot come. 

Learning outcomes: Teamwork, communication skills, critical and analytical thinking, researching and investigating, initiative, and problem solving. 

How to apply

You need to apply on the ECIU platform.

Application Deadline:  18.07.2022

Number of seats: 18

Workload: 10 hours per week

Recognition: 3 ECTS and a certificate of participation