In Canada, 79% of plastics are dumped in landfills or natural settings, creating huge social and environmental problems.

It’s a problem UBC Okanagan’s Dr. Mohammad Arjmand wants to address with the help of varied expertise and state-of-the-art plastic processing equipment available at UBC.

“I’ve been working with mostly virgin plastic in my research for almost 15 years,” explains the School of Engineering Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Advanced Materials and Polymer Engineering. “I wondered, could I do the same research with recycled plastic?”

UBC Okanagan’s Plastics Recycling Research Cluster brings together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) with industry partners and government authorities to better understand and address the issue of plastic waste from different aspects.

For example, while Dr. Arjmand’s engineering team is working to give plastics a second life by melting, reshaping and repurposing them, Dr. Aleksandra Dulic, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, is designing exhibitions to highlight the challenge of plastic waste and the initiatives UBC is taking to address the issue. At the same time, Dr. Grace Fan, Faculty of Management, is working with provincial and federal governments to hold plastic producers responsible for lifecycle plastic pollution.

A number of Indigenous communities have also partnered with the researchers, providing bio-based materials from forests on their lands to help explore what happens when natural materials are added to plastic waste. The partnerships help explore the problem of plastic waste, while finding a solution for biowaste in the wilderness at the same time. The project also involves hosting Indigenous high school and undergraduate students in the lab for one week to provide hands-on STEM experiences to local youth.

Dr. Arjmand is confident that the research cluster’s work will positively impact the world of plastic recycling.

“This is a niche area for UBC Okanagan. I know we can play a pivotal role in reducing plastic waste to our landfills through some creative thinking and teamwork. It’s time to go beyond the boundaries of the university and impact British Columbia, Canada and the world.”