Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

2 May 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded 3.5 year PhD to commence in October 2023.

The PhD will be based in the School of Environment, Geography and Geosciences in the Faculty of Science and Health and will be supervised by Professor Steve Fletcher and Dr Cressida Bowyer.

The successful candidate will be part of a new and innovative cluster of PhD students, dedicated to finding solutions to the global plastic crisis. Working as part of the cohort  you will explore the complex problem of marine pollution from plastic packaging and be expected to contribute to updates that demonstrate its impact. This interdisciplinary research programme is being supported by UK based material technologies company Aquapak, aiming to harness individual and collective discoveries to build new knowledge and deliver actionable strategies that can be taken to solve a growing problem.

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for 3.5 years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). 

The work on this project could involve:

  • Working at the leading edge of plastics policy at a key moment in the development of international plastics policy.
  • Collaborating with leading companies to explore design for circularity approaches, including reuse and refill systems.
  • Generating policy-relevant research findings that can contribute to reducing plastic pollution.

International policy and guidance related to plastic packaging, in particular design for circularity, is in near continuous flux. The initiation of a process by the UN to develop a legally binding treaty to tackle plastic pollution will undoubtedly create further shifts in the policy landscape, most likely towards a circular plastics economy. This PhD will examine current ‘design for circularity’ policy and practice to identify blockages, opportunities, and synergies in transitioning to a circular plastic economy based on design for circularity principles. The outcome of this research will be a world-leading understanding of the relationship between product design, the circular economy, and the delivery of sustainable outcomes. As well as joining the School’s PhD cohort, the candidate will become a part of the Global Plastics Policy Centre at the University. This group undertakes independent plastics policy reviews to support effective public and private-private plastics policies.  Since its formation in 2021, the Centre has worked with the World Bank, G20 and UN Environment Programme on plastics policy analysis, as well as with national governments and international NGOs.

Entry requirements

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

  • A keen interest in product design and plastics policy.
  • Strong communication skills are essential as the candidate will engage with multiple academic and commercial partners.
  • Excellent project management skills and ability to work independently.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Steve Fletcher ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. 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.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SEGG8150323 when applying.