Here is how we are transforming plastics recycling

plastics pollution.

Faculty members throughout the school are working to improve the nation’s plastic recycling efforts, which have been muddled since 2017 when China curtailed importing plastic waste.

Using AI-guided robots and chemical recycling to address plastic pollution

UB Distinguished Professor Paschalis Alexandridis is leading a UB research team to develop processing technologies that will make discarded plastic easier to reuse. The project focuses on the development of a novel set of tools such as a robotic system that relies on machine learning and other technologies to autonomously improve its ability to sort plastics, as well as environmentally responsible solvents and new chemistries that breakdown plastics to make them easier to reuse. It is supported by a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program.

Alexandridis, who holds an appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, leads a research team that blends expertise from diverse fields, including computer science, physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, environmental engineering and economics.

The team includes Amit Goyal, director of UB’s RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute and a SUNY Distinguished Professor and SUNY Empire Innovation Professor, Thomas  Thundat, SUNY Empire Innovation Professor, and Marina Tsianou, associate professor, all from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; John Atkinson, associate professor, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering; and Karthik Dantu, associate professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; all from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Additional researchers from the Department of Chemistry include Javid Rzayev, professor and associate chair, and Luis Velarde, associate professor; and Michael A. Shelly, environmental economist and research assistant professor in the RENEW Institute.

Paschalis Alexandridis.
Lead Researcher:

Paschalis Alexandridis, UB Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Assessing the plastics recycling industry

A multidisciplinary group of UB researchers led by Amit Goyal received $1.9 million from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to assess the plastics recycling industry and educate the public. The work also calls for developing policy options for the state as well as leading education and public outreach efforts to help stimulate the state’s regenerative economy while reducing pollution.

The team is led by Goyal, a SUNY Distinguished Professor and SUNY Empire Innovation Professor in chemical and biological engineering, and includes co-investigators John Atkinson, associate professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and Paschalis Alexandridis, UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, both in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Aditya Vedantam, assistant professor in the Department of Operations Management and Strategy in the UB School of Management; Alan Rae, director of UB’s Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics; Janet Yang, associate professor in the Department of Communication, and Susan Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Environment and Sustainability; Erin Moscati, sustainability education manager, Office of Sustainability, and Michael Shelly, environmental economist and research assistant professor in UB's RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute.

Amit Goyal.
Project Director:

Amit Goyal, Director, UB RENEW Institute; SUNY Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences