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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.

Three interlinked work packages

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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 polyesters 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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A music arrangement using only plastic created by William Benckert for the 100 year celebration of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA).

Bild av Matthew Gollop från Pixabay

The plastic in circulation – A day about plastic & recycling

2019-12-11. STEPS researcher Anna Svantesson gave a presentation at Malmö University on the use of packaging in the daily trade industry in Sweden. Other talks included presentations from Sysav and Packbridge. The event was organised by students at Malmö University to highlight the complexity of plastics. Read more here.

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STEPS researchers: All measures to address the plastics problem will fall flat if we ignore increased production

2019-11-14. The price of some recycled plastics is now higher than for new virgin plastics. Meanwhile, plastics production is set to double in the next twenty years. As long as we are not focusing on the root cause of the problem: increased production, measures to address the plastics problem will fall flat say researchers at Lund University. Read the full article here and download the scientific paper here.

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Collaboration for Sustainability – How to Move Forward

2019-11-06. STEPS researcher Baozhong Zhang, Associate professor at Department of Chemistry, Lund University, participated in a discussion with academic and non-academic actors on how to create good win-win relationships and collaboration across borders that enable the progress towards sustainability. He spoke about STEPS collaboration with industry partners Bona, Perstorp and Nordic Sugar in the development of the demoproduct, StepOn, a floor coating made out of sugar.
The seminar was part of Talk: Sustainability, a seminar series addressing future challenges connected to the global goals for sustainable development.

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So should investors think about plastic – STEPS research gives recommendations for sustainable investments

2019-10-28. Plastic companies which does not have a strategy for how to break their dependence on fossil fuels can be a risk for investors. Therefore investors need to make demands and ask questions about how the company’s plastic is produced, designed, packaged and how it can be recycled. So reads some of the recommendations in a new report from STEPS, Lund University, and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, directed at financial investors. The aim of the report is to make it easier for the financial sector to make sustainable investments. Read the full article here and download the report here.

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What does the future of plastic look like?

2019-10-14. Plastic waste is a growing problem around the world, despite efforts to recycle or reduce plastic use. In order to really transform the recycling process, more attention needs to be paid to the composition of plastic, according to a new research article from STEPS and Lund University. The paper presents strategies on how to improve recyclability through the smarter design of polymers – and how bio-based polymers could shift to carbon neutral alternatives. Read more here and download the scientific paper here.

CAETS 2019: Engineering a better world – the next 100 years

2019-07-05. Listen to STEPS programme director Rajni-Hatti Kaul talking about sustainable transitions for plastics at the The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) 100-years celebration in Stockholm, 26 June.

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Climate Change – What can we do?

2019-07-01. Two degrees more and de-carbonisation transitions was the topic for the seminar Climate Change – What can we do? held  in Lund on 27 June for a delegation of FP-AP, the european association of former members of parliament of the member states of the Council of Europe. WP leader Lars J Nilsson talked about STEPS in his contribution Zero Emissions: What do we have to work with?

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Fully-recyclable plastic packages by 2020?

2019-06-24. STEPS Master student Anna Svantesson presents her work on the Swedish Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry target of fully-recyclable plastic packaging by 2022, at Sysav today. Read more here.

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Plastics ReDesigned: new collaboration with Form/Design Center

2019-06-19. Designers have a key role in the transition to a sustainable plastics society. But too often they have limited knowledge of plastics as a material, and are unsure of how to use it. STEPS and Form/Design Center in Malmö have come together to start a new collaboration to increase knowledge, highlight research, and to encourage new and creative design approaches. Read more.

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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 is the process of making plastics from sugar beet? These are some of the questions discussed in two podcasts featuring STEPS researchers, Tobias Nielsen, political sicentist, and Niklas Warlin, Phd student at the Department of Chemistry at Lund University. Read more here.

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.

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.