NWO project MUNITION: for optimalisation of plastic recycling

Do you discard plastic waste in a separate bin, or is your waste sorted in a recycling center? Waste collection differs per region, because each region deals with different waste streams, human behaviour and technical possibilities. Unfortunately, current policies are far from optimal, which leads to only 30% of Dutch consumer waste plastic being recycled. Therefore, the new MUNITION project – led by Jeroen Jansen – will develop a digital tool supporting evidence-based choices between pre-sorting or post-sorting. The project receives 1.5 million euros from NWO, in the KIC Circularity call.

Pre-sorting vs. post-sorting

Regional waste collection policies may vary largely between pre-sorting, where waste separation is performed by the citizen, and post-sorting where plastic waste is separated industrially after collection. Determine the optimal regional waste collection policy is challenging, as it depends on several aspects like ability and willingness of citizens to discard plastic waste, regional availability and operation of waste collection and sorting infrastructure, environmental impact of different ways to collect and sort plastic waste and regional differences in the living environment. How these aspects affect quality of the waste, economic cost of the waste collection, environmental impact and the green behavior of citizens is largely unknown.

Digital twin

In the MUNITION project, the researchers will investigate a Digital Twin of plastics collection and recycling, to comprehensively and compare the economic and societal value of different waste collection policies. The multi-disciplinary team will quantify technology, environment, psychology and economy to gain systems insight into these aspects and how they connect in relation to different plastic waste collection policies. The twin will then score each policy on Key Performance Indicators for these complementary aspects.

The resulting KPI dashboard can be used to compare and optimize policies for the effect of future and regional changes on waste collection and the quality, sustainability, profitability and citizen welfare of the resulting plastic streams. The Analytical Chemistry department will create new sorting algorithms based on hyperspectral imaging, which is a technology that identifies waste properties with physical measurements. The researchers use this to identify differences in plastic waste collected through various ways.

Consortium

The academic consortium members are Radboud University and Wageningen University & Research. They work together with many companies and organisations active in the plastic recycling process: Netherlands Testcentre for Circular Plastics, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, Omgevingsdienst Noordzeekanaalgebied, HTP, DAR, Midwaste, NVRD, Sidcon, HAN-CMW, TNO-CE, Natuur en Milieu, VANG, Gemeente Heerenveen, RKN, Circulaire Raad, KplusV and Stichting Afvalfonds Verpakkingen. This consortium thereby combines partners from the entire waste plastics collection and processing chain with an interdisciplinary academic team of data scientists working in chemistry, environmental sciences, economics and psychology.

Green Information Technology

Jeroen Jansen is Associate Professor in the Analytical Chemistry & Chemometrics group at Radboud University. The research in the department focuses on integrating process-industrial concepts with multivariate data analysis to obtain more information-rich and dedicated chemometric models.

Jansen searches for opportunities to work together with research institutes and industry, who can develop and advance fundamental research further into digital solutions for processes that are more environmentally friendly. He is also management board member of the Interdisciplinary Research Platform of the Radboud FNWI, where he heads the research line Green Information Technology. MUNITION is a prime example of how faculty departments from different research institutes within FNWI collaborate on a joint topic, which is the prime objective of this Platform.

Contact information

For press inquiries, please contact the researcher directly, or contact team Science Communication on +31 24 361 6000 or media [at] ru.nl

Theme
Sustainability, Innovation, Molecules and materials