Project code



Accounting and Financial Management

Start dates

October, February and April

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Accounting and Financial Management Subject Group and will be supervised by Dr Roza Sagitova and Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust

The work on this project will:

  • Conduct a comprehensive and systematic literature review on business practices in plastic sustainability
  • Develop a framework to assess interventions needed to steer pro-circular change (implementation of ‘enzyme friendly plastic’ technology) in industry, considering the impact of that change on disadvantaged groups
  • Engage in Sustainability and the Environment research theme at the University of Portsmouth. 

Plastic waste is one urgent environmental challenge. The planet is drowning in plastic pollution, with more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced from 1950s (UNEP, 2021). There are a number of different measures across the globe to tackle plastic issues, however, those measures are fragmented. As a result, the approach across industries to plastic sustainability also vary dramatically. UNEP (2021) notes that business do not efficiently manage their plastic waste. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled, with even lower figures for commercial plastic waste (Circle Economy, 2021). There is resistance in business to substantially change the practice towards circular and sustainable plastic, as the business rhetoric is focusing more on individuals’ responsibility and incremental improvements in recycling, often in the way of “recyclable” products that are not actually recycled but incinerated or sent to landfill (Frei and Vazquez-Brust, 2020). State of the art technology offers mechanical and chemical methods for plastic recycling but these are too close to linear models and lack the necessary radical intent to step up circularity (Khan et al., 2020). Most of the plastics with recycled content cannot be recycled multiple times because of the quality of polymers resulting from existing recycling technologies. Recent research on ‘super-enzymes’ provides promising solutions to tackling plastic pollution and opportunities to accelerate the transition to circular and sustainable plastic (Singh et al., 2021).

However, the implementation and scaling of these technologies that can revolutionize the management of plastics would require radical changes: in the design of plastic materials, products, logistics solutions and business models. Some of these changes may unintentionally drive social exclusion and injustice, for instance eliminating jobs for low skilled sectors. More research is needed to determine the timescale and type of interventions needed to steer pro-circular change, and we particularly lack understanding of how (if) circular plastic practices can contribute to empower disadvantaged groups. Aiming to address such gap, this PhD project will explore current plastic sustainability practices and obtain a better understanding of the incentives and barriers for the implementation of radical technologies enabling circular and sustainable plastic systems in a close-loop plastic lifecycle that would effectively make companies accountable for their plastic footprint. We are interested in exploring this question investigating how the new technology of ‘enzyme friendly plastic’ can be scaled up to business level in a manner that is sustainable, circular and socially inclusive.


Circle Economy (2021). Circularity Gap Report 2021. 

Frei, R., and Vazquez-Brust, D. (2020, September 2), What happens to the plastic you recycle? Researchers lift the lid. The Conversation. 

Khan, O., Daddi, T., Slabbinck, H., Kleinhans, K., Vazquez-Brust, D., & De Meester, S. (2020). Assessing the determinants of intentions and behaviors of organizations towards a circular economy for plastics. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 163, 105069.

Singh, A., Rorrer, N.A., Nicholson, S.R., Erickson, E., DesVeaux, J.S., Avelino, A.F.T., Lamers, P., Bhatt, A., Zhang, Y., Avery, G., Tao, L., Pickford, A.R., Carpenter, A.C., McGeehan, J.E., and Beckham, G.T. (2021), Joule, 5, pp. 5479-2503.

UNEP (2021a). Beat plastic pollution.  


Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

2022/2023 fees (applicable for October 2022, February and April 2023 start) 

PhD and MPhil

UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students 

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

EU students
(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

International students

  • Full-time: £17,000 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £8,500 per year (may be subject to annual increase)

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2022/23 please visit this page.

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

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 Business and Management Studies or a related area. 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.

  • Have an interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR), and plastic sustainability;
  • Have an understanding of business models, supply chains and CSR reporting;
  • Have a good knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods;
  • And most important, have a good preparation to start this challenging but exciting research journey!

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Roza Sagitova ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Accounting PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

When applying please quote project code: AE&F4891023