Congratulations to a team out of Chemical Engineering who has been awarded an NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program for Plastic Affordance through Science and Technology Innovation for Circular Solutions (PLASTICS). This award, valued at $1.65 Million is 6 years supports the training and mentoring of teams of highly qualified students and postdoctoral fellows from Canada and abroad through the development of innovative training programs that encourage collaborative and integrative approaches, and address significant scientific challenges associated with Canada’s research priorities facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce. In addition to the $1.65 million funding from NSERC, this program will receive over $2.1 million from the participating institutions and industrial partners both cash and in-kind.

PLASTICS brings together an interdisciplinary, international team that excels in research translation, teaching excellence and research impact. The program will be led by James McLellan, with co-applicants from Chemical Engineering including Laurence Yang, Cao Thang Ding, and Carlos Escobedo, and Kevin De France (collaborator). It also includes Queen’s researchers from Biology (George diCenzo), Chemistry (David Zechel) and Mining (Qian Zhang),  researchers from McGill University (Karine Auclair), Laval University (Jesse Greener), and Simon Fraser University Beedie School of Business (Elicia Maine and Sarah Lubik).

This is complemented by a wide range of stakeholders (including industry and municipal government) representing sectors that are effected by evolving policies and innovations around plastic recycling. Stakeholders will guide PLASTICS and provide internships and experiential opportunities to HQP, preparing them for high-quality jobs in the growing cleantech and environmental sectors. The program will train 78 HQP of various levels with 40 directly funded by CREATE.

Plastics are ubiquitous in society, with affordances - what society can accomplish with plastics - playing an essential role in supporting water and food security, clothing, the built environment, transportation, health care and computing. However, the growing impacts of plastics from environmental microplastic dispersion and the growing costs associated with hydrocarbon-based production necessitate prompt and effective action. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable populations often bear much of the negative impacts of unmanaged plastic waste. We as a society need to move to the point where the affordances of plastics can be realized with minimal environmental and societal impact.