Creating a circular economy for plastics

The University of Birmingham in partnership with Stopford, and a technology operating company, has been awarded funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge to enable further development of a disruptive process for the recycling of mixed waste plastics.

CircuPlast is an eco-friendly technology that uses super critical water as a green solvent to enable the recycling of hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste streams into a chemical feedstock to go back into plastics manufacture, providing a truly circular approach to the management of waste plastics.

The innovation project will see the development of a scale prototype, under which the novel supercritical water (water that is above the critical point of 374.5oC and 220 bars) process will be tested. Under such conditions, water provides an ideal environment to indiscriminately dissolve and decompose non-recyclable plastic waste mixtures into value-added materials, which are feedstock for manufacturing new plastics.

The CircuPlast technology represents the next generation of processes to replace widespread usage of incineration and landfilling for the disposal of hard-to-recycle plastics, whilst seeking to mitigate against waste export. The scale prototype will be able to process the equivalent of over 6 million plastic straws per annum, generating a sustainable alternative to fossil oil derived feedstocks for the manufacture of plastics.

The project is supported by UKRI’s SSPP Challenge, the largest Government investment to support the achievement of the UK Plastics Pact with the potential to alter the UK’s relationship with, and management of, plastic packaging.

The collaborative project will see the technology’s inventor, Dr Bushra Al-Duri from the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering, working alongside colleagues at Stopford to fast-track the technical and commercial development of CircuPlast.

Dr Ben Herbert, Stopford’s Technology & Innovation Director said: “I am delighted that our CircuPlast technology has been recognised by UKRI’s SSPP Challenge as a ground breaking recycling technology for the management of waste plastics, and I very much look forward to working with our project partners to achieve our mutual ambitions of enabling a truly circular approach to the management of plastics waste.”

Dr Bushra Al-Duri commented: “I am most excited to deliver an advanced technology that helps alleviate the global plastics problem with an eco-friendly approach, and better-quality products while engaging in synergistic collaboration with our partners. Together, we look forward to future engagements and opportunities.”

CircuPlast is expected to overcome the substantial limitations of existing recycling processes by enhancing recycling rates, enabling an increase in the recycled content of plastics, maintaining functionality, to a level that is currently unachievable using mechanically recovered materials.


About the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging challenge

The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products with £60 million in funding which will be complemented by £149 million from industry. The challenge will deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025. Part of this funding will develop and demonstrate at scale new business models for reuse and refill as well as behavioural change. Delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), more detail on the SSPP Challenge can be found here.

About Stopford

Stopford are world class innovators, with a portfolio of Stopford owned green technologies; established in 1982 an international multi-disciplinary consultancy, engineering design and project management services company with a proven track record in developing innovative process technologies and process solutions for commercially successful innovation.

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

University of Birmingham Enterprise helps researchers turn their ideas into new services, products and enterprises that meet real-world needs.  We also support innovators and entrepreneurs with mentoring, advice, and training and manage the University’s Academic Consultancy Service.  Our portfolio of technologies available for licensing can be viewed at