Universities from around the globe have announced a collaboration to reduce plastic waste in the environment.

The funding from the University Global Partnerships Network (UGPN) will enable researchers from the University of Wollongong will to join colleagues from the University of Surrey and the University of Sao Paolo. The project is called ‘Rethinking Plastics Pollution post-Pandemic: no virus, no waste?’

They will work with  the Governing Plastics Network and discus further opportunities for research and education.

The team consists of researchers from many disciplines: law, chemistry, engineering, and business. The network is also gender and career level diverse, including PhD students, ECR and senior professors.

Dr Marcella Bernardo Papini, an expert in plastic waste from the SMART Infrastructure Facility, said people were finally starting to understand the damage that plastic waste is causing our planet.

“We need to develop tools to help turn that understanding into local action in communities worldwide. There will have to be a range of strategies to ensure that plastics do not continue to degrade the environment, hurting wildlife and polluting the oceans,” she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the generation of plastic waste. Due to many factors and measures such as lockdown, the consumption of single-use plastic products in society and healthcare has risen tremendously.

“The project is all about understanding how plastic waste has impacted the environment and our health prior and post COVID-19, and how a sustainable plastic waste management can be achieved post COVID-19.”

The core of the collaboration project is two joint studies, strengthened by various collaborative activities, such as workshops, short-course, podcast series, and forum, which will create knowledge for educating and shaping the field of plastic waste in the post-COVID-19 context.

The University of Wollongong will host a two-day conference next year – virtual if necessary – and a short course to provide postgraduate students with knowledge of selective waste collection systems that have been adopted worldwide.

The UGPN aims to develop sustainable world-class research, education and knowledge transfer through an active international network of selected Universities collaborating in research, learning and teaching to benefit global society.

The program will develop a range of jointly enabled innovative solutions to world problems based on shared research expertise and a mobility strategy for increasing the number of faculty, staff and students with international experience.

The UGPN annual conference will be held in Wollongong next year.