March 21, 2019

Targeting Sustainable Plastic Use: Fully funded PhD studentship (3 year)

Targeting Sustainable Plastic Use: Fully funded PhD studentship (3 year) in Dept of Organisation Work and Technology, Lancaster University Management School, funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Material Social Futures Research.

The Leverhulme PhD Training Centre for Material Social Futures brings together concepts and approaches from across the disciplines to help produce futures that people want and the world needs. The doctoral training is a major new strategic collaborative partnership between the vibrant research community of the University’s Institute for Social Futures ( and the Materials Science Institute (  Based in the Department of Organisation Work and Technology you will undertake your PhD research alongside PhDs researching the materials science aspects of this topic, in particular related to the devising of next generation plastics. These and other PhDs will all be members of and participants in a multi-stranded PhD research training programme in Material Social Futures. The future design and creation of sustainable materials is one important part of this programme.

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is a quadruple-accredited, world-ranked management school, consistently among the UK’s top ten and with a reputation for research of outstanding quality. It is the most research-intensive business school in the UK, with 80% of research output considered world-leading or internationally excellent (according to the latest Research Excellence Framework, REF 2014). The project will benefit from full access to the state-of-the-art facilities of Lancaster’s library, its Special Collections and archives and the Materials Science Institute and the intellectual network provided by the Institute for Social Futures.


In the UK 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away each year and less than 1% are being recycled. Awareness surrounding plastic waste has increased and some of these cups contain polyethylene liners tightly bonded to the paper cups to make them waterproof. These cups need to be recycled at specialist facilities. Plastics are incredibly difficult to break down and over time produce micro plastics that are often ingested by animals and marine life. Commercially available ‘biodegradable’ plastics that are (such as polylactide, PLA), currently suffer from very long degradation times due to their hydrophobicity, as well as lacking many of the favourable properties of traditional plastics derived from petrochemicals. There is therefore an urgent need for new, biodegradable plastics that will both perform highly and degrade under mild conditions. Clearly, given that business are reliant on eco-system services, and responsible, in part, for the environmental degradation, they have a vital role to play in the resolution of this issue and it should not be one tackled solely by materials scientists. Designing and creating new circular solutions for more sustainable plastics is an on-going challenge, but also a significant opportunity for reducing environmental impacts, generating new economic growth and societal benefits.

The Project:

The central premise of this research is to create a roadmap to a Circular Solution for generating next generation plastics. Your proposed project will critically evaluate the design, creation and implementation of safer and more sustainable plastic material use. The intention is to identify barriers and drivers for change for the replacement of the currently non-degradable plastic lining in coffee cups with more sustainable materials, thus gaining an understanding of how suitable materials can be successfully brought into the mainstream once they are discovered and developed in the laboratory.

The concerns of the project will be to showcase a possible business solution in action. The PhD on ‘Targeting Sustainable Materials Reuse’ will be undertaken alongside and in collaboration with a PhD developing novel biodegradable polymeric materials (plastics) based in the Chemistry Department. The combination is intended to develop a multidimensional understanding of how to design, create and implement a circular solution to the process of generating the next generation of plastics.

Further Details:

  • The scholarship will cover full payment of academic fees (at the standard RCUK rate);
  • A maintenance stipend (£15,009 pa subject to annual inflation increments);
  • It is available to all UK and EU citizens;
  • Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) for reimbursement of research-related expenses including – but not limited to – conference attendance, training courses and equipment of at least £800 p.a.;
  • Access to a range of training and development provided by the Material Social Futures PhD Programme, the Department of Languages and Cultures, the Engineering Department, the Faculty of Science and Technology, the Institute for Social Futures and Lancaster University;
  • The Material Social Futures PhD programme will offer internships (including international placements) in the second and/or third year of training.

Deadline and closing date: end August 2019, for start October 1 2019


Candidates must have qualifications of the standard of Bachelor’s degree at first or upper second class level, and may also have a suitable Master’s degree or equivalent (with a dissertation mark of at least 65% or equivalent and an overall programme average not less than 65% or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. Candidates will preferably have a background and academic interest in any combination of, management, organisational behaviour, sociology, anthropology or related science and technology studies.

Application Details:

Please apply online via the University Postgraduate Admissions Portal at  (PhD in Management (Organisation, Work and Technology) with:

  • CV
  • Masters Transcript & Certificate
  • Undergraduate Transcript & Certificate
  • Personal Statement (not exceeding 2 pages of A4) outlining your suitability for a PhD
  • Research Proposal explaining how you would approach the research.
  • Two referees (one of whom should be your most recent academic tutor/supervisor)
  • An example of postgraduate level written work (e.g. a research article, chapter, or essay).

You should clearly state on your application you are applying for a funded PhD on ‘Sustainable Plastic Use’

Contact Us:

We very much welcome informal queries about this opportunity, which should be directed to Dr Alison Stowell (,

Please apply before the end of August 2019