Lectoraat Circular Plastics

Circular Plastics

Plastics are unique and versatile materials that help us stay healthy, safe and warm. From a heart catheter and car seatbelt to cavity wall insulation, it is hard to imagine a world without plastics. However, this success also has a downside. In fact, polymers, the main component of all plastics, are so well designed that they cannot be broken. This is an ideal property during use, until it ends up in landfills or in the environment. 

For this reason, plastics are currently the subject of a controversial debate. While manufacturers remind us of the unique benefits plastics bring, more and more consumers and campaign groups are calling for a ban. Both the proposition to continue unlimited production and use, and the radical rejection of plastics, are not realistic or feasible from a practical and scientific point of view. 

Plastics will continue to play an essential role in our society in the coming decades. It is therefore necessary to use fewer raw materials, redesign products and recycle them in a high-quality manner. This requires a cross-sectoral approach. Together with students, teachers and companies, the Circular Plastics professorship is committed to innovations in biopolymers, recycling and circular design. A circular plastics economy is not a goal in itself, but a means to reduce raw material use and greenhouse gas emissions within the carrying capacity of the planet. 

Practice-based research

The Netherlands aims to achieve a fully circular economy by 2050. To achieve this ambition, specific measures have been formulated for the transition to circular plastics, as one of the most impactful production chains. We distinguish four strategies to make raw material use circular: 

  1. Reducing raw material use
  2. Substitution of raw materials
  3. Life extension
  4. High-quality processing 

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Our mission

The mission of the professorship Circular Plastics is to stimulate the transition to a future-proof plastics economy in the Northern Netherlands. The development of sustainable materials and processes for plastics can contribute to responsible and less resource use. In this respect, there is a world to win: our planet. In developing circular innovations, we are inspired by that same planet and its wonderful nature. 

Research lines

The professorship’s substantive focus is built around three strongly related focus areas, at the interface between the fields of chemistry, engineering and design.

Innovative education

For the transition from linear to circular to succeed, the society of the future needs professionals who can not only master knowledge but also (co)create.  Students benefit from a cross-disciplinary environment in which they can actively develop by working together across the boundaries of their own specialism towards the same goal. 

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Groundbreaking projects

The professorship works on several projects to achieve innovations in the field of circular plastics. These developments are achieved in co-creation with education and industry in (Northern) Netherlands. 

  • Molecular recycling of textiles
    Complex composite products, such as textiles, can be recycled thanks to a process based on depolymerisation, purification and re-polymerisation. 

  • Circular composites for bathrooms
    Solid surface products, applicable in bathtubs and kitchen countertops, are made fully recyclable in this project by applying vitrification.  

  • 3D printing with hospital waste
    In this innovation project, discarded packaging from the hospital is applied as raw material for new 3D printed objects.

  • Degradable biopolymers for textile fibres
    By developing new biodegradable polymers for yarns, we combat microplastics. 

  • Plastic Soup? Close the Loop!
    In the new course 'Plastic Soup? Close the Loop!" students from different courses are challenged together to close the zoo's plastic cycle. 

Greenwise Campus

The Northern Netherlands is working hard on circular solutions for plastics. In the Greenwise Campus, knowledge institutions, companies and governments join forces. After all, sharing knowledge and facilities increases the chances of success. This network forms a challenging environment for students and researchers, and is an ideal breeding ground for new knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Within this campus, the hybrid research group Biopolymer and Recycling Innovations (HyBRIt) is committed to the 'greening' of chemistry. HyBRIt is a unique partnership, in which the Department of Macromolecular Chemistry & New Polymeric Materials (University of Groningen) and the professorship Circular Plastics (NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences) share staff, students and facilities. By working together beyond the traditional boundaries of knowledge institutions and expertise, the research group is able to bridge the gap between scientific discoveries and applications. They recently received the NWO Team Science Award for this. 

Green PAC

The lectureship Circular Plastics is strongly connected to the Centre of Expertise Green PAC. The centre is a knowledge hub for institutions and companies in the field of plastics, composites, fibres and yarns. Green PAC develops knowledge and accelerates innovations in co-production with industry. Green PAC is an initiative of NHL Stenden and Windesheim and has had COCI and iLab status since 2013. For Drenthe, this means that Emmen is a hotspot for open chemical innovation. The initiative was created to establish a solid connection between education and entrepreneurs. By actively linking education to business through the lectureship Circular Plastics, Green PAC increases the social commitment of the universities of applied sciences and contributes positively to promising prospects for students and companies. The emphasis is on applied research in public-private partnerships.



NHL Stenden Hogeschool  
Academy Technology & Innovation
Professorship Circular Plastics


Sustainable Development Goals

This professorship contributes to...