Boot camp in sustainability and plastic recycling organized by CREAToR project – 8.12.2022

My thesis supervisor introduced the boot camp for me and made it possible for me to attend it. I quickly jumped to the opportunity and applied for the boot camp. The goals were to improve my knowledge about plastic recycling as well as to meet experts from the plastic recycling field. Safe to say I achieved my goals and even arranged interviews with the experts for my thesis.

The boot camp was organized by the European-funded research project CREAToR and its partners KLU, Erema and Fraunhofer ICT in Hamburg, Germany. The three days long boot camp was targeted for students to educate us about current plastic recycling system. The first day was packed with lectures from thermoplastics on molecular level to managing the recycling supply chain. After the first day, as we became experts in the field in one day, it was time to develop new ideas in a group on how to improve plastic packaging recycling. On the last day of the boot camp, we presented our ideas and got feedback from actual experts.

Developing solutions to improve recycling of plastic packaging

We got divided into groups of five with as diverse studying backgrounds as possible. We had students from logistics, marketing, law and chemical engineering (myself). The assignment was to develop a solution to help recycling of plastic packaging by making sorting easier for student, families and senior citizens.

I immediately started thinking about the technological solutions I have been reading about recently for my thesis. However, I quickly realized that the students from marketing, logistics and law were not that keen on my technical suggestions. As a compromise, we decided to implement new color-coded markings on every separate part of a packaging. But I was still able to pitch combination of color coding and watermark technology that I had read about recently. Next, we began thinking on how to present our idea to the experts and other groups.

We decided to act out a scenario on how the color-coding would work in practice. So, we began color-coding our waste accordingly: brown = cardboard, red = metal, blue = plastic and so on. After pitching our idea to the experts, we received good feedback about renewing the marking system to simplify waste sorting as much as possible. However, our idea had one minor flaw according to one of the experts: who could have guessed that color-blind citizens might have an issue with our solution.

As a whole, the boot camp was valuable for me by expanding my knowledge related to plastics recycling and its challenges. As a young researcher, experience and opportunity to learn new things about the field are important to me. The knowledge that I gained from the boot camp is definitely useful for my ongoing thesis as well as for my future as the topics were highly of my interests.

8.12.2022 | Mikko Myrä, Research trainee (VTT),