Sustainable Plastics Engineering

December 11, 2019 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Wallberg WB407
200 College Street
Dr. Jeffrey McDowell

Low-Carbon Renewable Materials Center (LCRMC) Impact Series


Seeram Ramakrishna, FREng
National University of Singapore

Over the past several decades, humans have perfected technology to make
synthetic polymers. Thousands of varieties have been created with a range
of properties needed for diverse applications and mass production. The
resultant creation of cheap and ubiquitous plastic, however, has fostered a
throw away culture that is contributing to an unsustainable global build-up
of solid waste. Less than twenty percent of plastic waste worldwide is recycled
– with a significant portion being incinerated. One-third of plastic
waste ends up in nature, accounting for 100 million tons of plastic waste in
2016. According to WWF, at present rates, the ocean will contain one ton of
plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025 – and through the food chain,
humans are at risk of ingesting up to 5 grams of micro-plastics and
nano-plastics a week. Policy makers and the public are emphasizing the
need to reduce consumption of single-use plastics and set hard targets for
recycling of plastics by companies and municipalities – a processes requiring
improved digital tracking and methods of sorting. Companies are considering
redesigning products with single plastic material systems so as to facilitate
higher recycling rates, including the increased use of bio-plastics and
natural polymers. Meanwhile, researchers continue synthesizing new
plastics to improve reprocessing and biodegradablility whilst still oering
desirable functional properties. Such developments are essential for establishing
national zero-waste/circular economies.


Professor Seeram Ramakrishna, FREng is the Chair of Circular Economy
Taskforce at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is a member of
Enterprise Singapore NMC on ISO/TC323 on Circular Economy. He is an
advisor to the Singapore National Environmental Agency’s and a member
of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Committee on Future of Production-
Sustainability. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Springer NATURE Journal
Materials Circular. He is an editorial board member of NATURE Scientic
Reports. He received a PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK; and the
TGMP from the Harvard University, USA. He is named among the World’s
Most Inuential Minds and the Top 1% Highly Cited Researchers in Materials
Science by Thomson Reuters and Clarivate Analytics. His research interests
include innovations in sustainable materials and evaluation of circularity
of materials via life cycle assessment. In his lecture Materials for Engineers,
he teaches eco-design and life cycle engineering.