Life cycle and economic analyses of various treatment strategies for single-used lab plastic waste and development of an experimental plan for plastic characterisation post-decontamination

This project is to research sorting, decontamination and recycling of lab plastic waste.

Start date

June 2021

End date

September 2021


Over 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated globally from the research sectors. The majority of this waste goes to landfill or incineration due to a lack of recycling service. We aim to create a circular economy in the research sectors by offering a solution to sort, decontaminate and recycle the plastics.

This project is designed to conduct techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment of various treatment and processing methods for this plastic waste. Subsequently, long-term strategies which will offer better economic and environmental benefits will be concluded. In addition, a detailed experimental plan will be produced to characterise properties of processed plastics.

Key tasks and timeline

Mid-May to mid-July

  1. Analyse input-output life cycle inventory data for the LabCycle’s alternative treatment methods, and plastic characterisation data
  2. Compare the environmental impacts between autoclave and chemical disinfection.

Mid-July to mid-August

  1. Literature findings on the key properties (e.g. contaminant, rigidity, abrasion and strain resistance, dimensional stability, impact resistance and thermostability) and characterisation methods of PP, PS and HDPE
  2. Produce a detailed experimental plan for characterisation of LabCycle’s post-decontamination plastics (including objectives, materials, procedures and risk assessment).

Mid-August to mid-September

  1. Identify facilities in the University of Surrey to characterise and if possible to treat or process the materials
  2. Carry out economic analysis of turning decontaminated plastics into lab-grade plastic consumables via mechanical recycling, and to compare this with directly selling the decontaminated plastics to recycling companies.


Research themes

Find out more about our research at Surrey: