Plastics have huge positive impacts on our lives by reducing food waste, providing a reliable and secure supply of the goods we consume, making our homes more efficient, and providing affordable and safe medical care. Their ubiquity, however, is having a detrimental impact on the world in which we live through enduring pollution of our lands, waters and food supplies, through their unknown health impacts, and through significant emissions associated with their production and disposal. 

The SFI Plastics Challenge seeks innovative STEM-led solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy; that will restore and preserve our oceans’ health; and that will maximise how we use the Earth's finite resources. It is proposed to incentivize outcomes in three specific areas: 

  • Remove: address challenges associated with removing polluting plastics from value chains, from waste streams or from the environment. 
  • Replace: address challenges associated with making plastic usage sustainable, such as identifying bio-based or gaseous feedstocks (raw materials), or developing novel materials with desirable functional and end-of-life properties. 
  • Recover: address challenges associated with recovering value from end-of-life plastics, such as depolymerization to regenerate feedstocks, upcycling waste to higher value products or innovations to transform current recycling processes. 

Acknowledging the impact associated with the use of plastics in the execution of SFI’s funded research, the development of solutions that directly address the challenges of removing, replacing or recycling plastics in Ireland’s research laboratories is encouraged. 

Under the partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and SFI, teams may apply to this challenge that are focused on delivering impact in countries where Ireland’s official development assistance is directed. Specific information is available on the SFI-DFA Partnership here.