Funded (UK/EU/International students)

Project code



Department of Strategy, Enterprise and Innovation

Start dates

Closing date

19th May 2019 (11.59pm)

This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust.

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the RCUK rate (£15,009 for 2019/2020). Successful international (non-EEA) applicants will have to self-fund the fee difference and cannot use the stipend allocation to fund the remainder of the international tuition fees due.

As part of the bursary the Faculty of Business and Law may fund fieldwork expenses (currently £2,000) over the total period of PhD study. We also offer funding to attend conferences (currently £450), training (currently £450), and a work-based placement (currently a maximum of £3,000 tied up to the period of 12 weeks). 

The work on this project will:

  • Contribute to enhanced understanding of how to develop and facilitate implementation of practical new strategies and solutions to increase plastic waste recycling rates within four cities (Douai, Ghent, Southend and The Hague).
  • Link with the EU Interreg project: Plasticity.
  • Include mapping of quantities and qualities of flows of plastic and plastic waste in the cities mentioned, the identification of actors involved in such flows, surveys to understand their motivations and barriers to increase recycling rates; and the modelling of logistic and policy scenarios for waste recycling.

The project will be linked to the EU Interreg project: Plasticity.  It will include data collection from 4 four countries: Belgium, France, The Netherlands and UK. There countries are major producers of plastic waste in the EU, generating between 27 (BE) and 37 (NL) kg of annual packaging waste per capita, excluding non-packaging and industrial waste. Despite previous efforts, overall recycling rates are limited to around 20% (FR, UK) and 30% (BE, NL).

A main cause is the lack of holistic management of all different sources of dispersed plastic waste at the different actors. Urban environments are prime examples of that, since a large range of local actors (industry, public, private) generate the waste, but don’t usually fall under one management (or specific waste management) scheme. Different actors in a region do not collaborate to come to an optimised plastic waste management scheme.

This results in suboptimal logistics, economic costs, but also in environmental impact, such as plastic debris ending up in water bodies. It is stated that much of this plastic litter originates from urban areas located near water bodies. This is especially relevant for the areas bordering the north sea, which contains a huge number of cities that are situated near/at the shoreline and have water bodies throughout the city centres.

The cities involved in this project need a change in waste management practices and an improved attitude towards plastic in the circular economy. Cities are also huge exporters of plastic waste, not only displacing the problem, but also missing economic opportunities. Countries like China have recently closed their borders to European export of plastic waste. Waste management companies are urgently searching for solutions.

The PhD project will generate data on quantities and qualities of flows of plastic waste and the behaviour of actors involved in plastic waste generation, collection, reuse, recycle and disposal. It will further identify drivers and barriers for reverse logistics and recycling involving plastic, develop logistic scenarios for new solutions and design and implement strategies for inducing behaviour change amongst the range of actors involved. The candidate will be part of the design and implementation of stakeholder surveys, workshops (around the development of urban platforms) and sensitisation actions.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second classor equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriatesubject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/orQualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Bachelor's or Master’s degree in Social Sciences.  Excellent understanding of quantitative methods. Experience in modelling and/or mixed methods research is desirable. Candidates will be encouraged to combine quantitative and qualitative approaches.

In terms of quantitative skills, candidates should be able to collect and organize large amounts of  data and information, have advanced knowledge in Excel (Macros, Dynamics Tables) or similar. Knowledge of data visualization tools (examples: QGis, Tableau, PowerBI, Google Earth) and decision-making support tools will be needed during the PhD. Knowledge in programming, and experience in modelling or data mining tools is also desirable.  

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code BUSM4580519.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Business and Management’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

In particular the proposal should provide:

  • a brief literature review regarding methodologies to map plastic waste flows, behavioural barriers for recycling and strategies to address such barriers, including description of gaps in such literature that the PhD will address
  • the theoretical perspective to be used and expected theoretical contribution
  • your methodological approach.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please note, to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BUSM4580519 when applying.

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