STEPS is a research program with a vision of a future society where plastics are sustainably produced, used and recycled

STEPS goal is to facilitate this transition by sharing innovation, knowledge and findings between academia, industry and society. STEPS partners include Lund University, Swedish Agricultural University, Swerea IVF, and 18 industrial partners and County council of Scania county of Sweden representing the entire value chains in a sustainable plastics system.

STEPS is looking for sustainable solutions throughout the value chain from renewable feedstock, conversion and design to post-consumer plastic waste handling. STEPS concept is to design sustainable plastics with desired material properties and life-cycle by matching suitable carbon-neutral building blocks.

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WP1 has focus on production of polyester building blocks from renewable feedstocks including surplus biomass streams and carbon dioxide. Importance is given to issues such as feedstock security, and clean and cost-efficient process technologies for transformation and product recovery.

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WP2 combines suitable bio-based building blocks from WP1 to produce “drop-in” as well as novel poly-esters that will be characterized and evaluated for target applications such as fibres, coatings, packaging and films. Modified natural polymers are also evaluated as components in plastic formualtions. Key features of the polyesters would be improved barrier properties and thermal stability, recyclability or complete biodegradability.

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WP3 has the main task to assess potential transition pathways to develop research-based advice on policy and industrial strategies for sustainability in the longer term. Governance and policy implications for a circular plastics economy are addressed, including social dimensions and the roles and responsibilities of key actors.


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STEPS researchers discuss plastics challenges in podcasts from Trifilon

2019-06-14. How can the government make plastic production sustainable? And what ist the process of making plastics from sugar beet? These are some of the questions discussed in two podscasts featuring STEPS researchers, Tobias Nielsen, political sicentist, and Niklas Warlin, Phd student at the Derpartment of Chemistry at Lund University.

Listen to Tobias Nielsen’s podcast.

Listen to Niklas Warlin’s podcast.

The podcast series is made by Trifilon and is called Materials from Sweden. It features conversations with experst, academics and business people amongst others on the theme of materials, especially those found in consumer products, and also sustainability from any and all perspectives.


Shall we discuss plastic bags?

2019-04-29. The issue of how the use of plastic bags can be reduced has been widely discussed in the EU in recent years. The steps taken are far from sufficient and show how political dividing lines – both between member countries and between party groups – have governed the rules that exist today. Read the full article by STEPS researchers here.


Japan-Europe Dialogue 2019

2019-04-25. STEPS researcher Tobias Nielsen talks about pathways to sustainable plastics in front of scholars and practitioners, including Japan’s Vice-minister for Environment, at the Japan-Europe Dialogue 2019, Pathway to Reducing Marine Plastic Pollution -Toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Crops or Carbon Dioxide? What is the Future of Plastics?

2019-03-09. Listen to researchers from Lund University and RISE exploring the possibilites of using residues from agriculture, or even carbon dioxide, to produce plastics in way that avoids food insecurity and negative climate impacts in the future. The event is organised by STEPS and is part of Lund Sustainability Week 2019.

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The Annual Report 2018 is published!

2019-03-29. Now you can read STEPS Annual Report 2018 here.

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Joint Forces for Sustainability Forum

2019-03-21. STEPS researcher Tobias Nielsen presented the five potential pathways to a sustainable plastics system at Joint Forces for Sustainability Forum. Read more here.

Science and Innovation Talk at Tetra Pak

2019-03-08. Listen to STEPS researcher Tobias Nielsen, Political Science, Lund University, talking about Pathways to Sustainable Plastics at Tetra Paks Science and Innovation Talk! Five pathways to more sustainable plastics are discussed: bio-based, biodegradable, recycling, fewer types and reduced use.

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Founders of Tomorrow

2019-02-24. Lars J Nilsson presented the 1.5 °C challenge based on the recent IPCC report and decarbonisation pathways for industry including plastics and steel at the Founders of Tomorrow Impact bootcamp and idea competition. Read more here.


Opinion piece in NyTeknik

2019-02-20. ”Banning straws and plastic bags is not enough, we need a vision for the entire plastic use”
– writes STEPS researchers Fredric Bauer, Tobias Nielsen and professor Lars J Nilsson in NyTeknik.
Read the article here.


New STEPS paper published!

2019-02-19. Need a bag? A review of public policies on plastic carrier bags – Where, how and to what effect? by researchers Tobias Nielsen, Karl Holmberg and Johannes Stripple can be downloaded here.



Sveriges Plastutredning

2019-02-06. I december blev Sveriges plastutredning färdig. Och på EU-nivå finns en ny plaststrategi med bla direktiv om ett förbud mot engångsartiklar som sugrör, bestick och tallrikar. Ett bra ramverk men plastdebatten måste nyanseras. Det menar statsvetaren Tobias Nielsen som ingår i ett forskningsprogram om hållbar plastanvändning. Läs mer


European Biopolymer Summit

2019-02-13. ACI’s European Biopolymer Summit 2019 will bring together senior executives and experts from biopolymers’ manufacturers, chemical companies, and consultants, to discuss the latest changes, challenges and developments within the industry. More information and registration here.


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The fight against plastic pollution has only just begun

2018-12-22. STEPS researchers from Lund University publish ”Kampen mod plastik er kun lige begyndt” in the Danish Politiken (p. 6, 2018-12-22). They write about the new EU directive on single use plastics and the fight against plastic pollution in the oceans and on our beaches. Read the full article here.

Pathways to sustainable plastics

Five pathways to more sustainable plastics are proposed: bio-based, biodegradable, recycling, fewer types and less use. The pathways are complementing rather than competing, although the balance between pathways in a transition cannot be detailed in advance. Technology development, institutional changes and human behaviour will create new opportunities and problems along the way.
Read more.

STEPS Annual Report 2016-17

2018-03-31. STEPS annual report for Year 1.
Download here.