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Sweet Spot

A project in the Interdisciplinary Sustainable Initiatives at NTNU

Sweet Spot


About the Project

The Sweet Spot project is an interdisciplinary collaboration to identify the primary sources and hot-spot areas of plastic pollution in Norwegian waters. Adopting an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach, the project aims at building on current research activities at NTNU to investigate transformative solutions to the marine plastic problem. The transformation will be driven through a multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary approach, where the science of machine learning, artificial intelligence, laboratory analysis, behavioural change, supply chain management and business model research will be integrated with the active involvement of local and regional actors. The terminology “sweet spots” reflects the idea of using mutually complementing knowledge systems to build a comprehensive picture of marine plastic pollution in Norway and use this as a springboard for co-developing interventions that are eco-effective.

Globally, more than 300 mt of virgin plastic are produced every year, of which only 15-20% is recycled and reused. With plastic being a fossil resource, this poor resource utilisation leaves a large potential for improvement, where prolonging its product life may contribute to solving two dire environmental concerns – emissions from plastic incineration, and marine plastic littering. Despite this, concrete measures for solving this concern are still lacking. The much-needed transitioning towards more circular value chains for plastic will require a systemic understanding of the physical characteristics of the problem, barriers and opportunities of reusing it, and lastly, how individual behaviour can impact the transition. Thus, this research will shed light on the systemic faults currently leading plastic to an ‘early grave’ on the ocean bed and provide new solutions and applications for an inherently scarce resource.  

The joint goal of the PhD positions is to participate in an interdisciplinary group that will inform circular economy strategies for marine plastic pollution. In total, there are 6 PhdD-positions tied to this project. The PhD students will, in cooperation with other project partners tackle the plastic pollution issue from various perspectives: They will develop novel approaches for detecting and managing marine litter through the development and use of an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) for automatic data acquisition, use laboratory experiments to estimate degradation rates of macro litter items in aquatic environment, and select and sample beach sand for characterisation and quantification of micro-plastic pollution. They will also carry out an organisational network analysis (ONA) in the value chains of plastic fishing gear, develop new business models for producers of plastic fishing gear and finally, identify the key parameters needed to develop an effective individual and collective behaviour change intervention. By combining all these approaches, we are hoping to find the “Sweet Spot” that is needed to solve the problem of marine littering.

 

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The Team

The Team