Plastic in a Sustainable Society

Plastic materials are all around us today. Plastic is versatile, malleable, durable and cheap ­­— properties that give it a vast range of uses. Unfortunately, after use, a great deal of it finds its way into the environment, on land and at sea, where its impact on ecosystems is increasingly evident. Besides plastic itself, there are also a range of chemical additives that may have toxic effects in the short and long term.

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Plastic is so central to present-day society that, without it, further development is inconceivable. But great potential for improvement in the handling of plastic, from the raw materials to recycling and waste management, exists. Mistra is therefore announcing funding for a new research programme on plastic in a sustainable society. This programme is to have a system-critical and solution-based approach and requires active participation by relevant industrial partners.


Mistra has had a background report, containing proposals for areas to include in the programme, drawn up. The report is based on the experts’ own observations from research and relevant studies of the literature, and also on a workshop where representatives of Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) and companies were able to present their views.The starting point is that plastic will remain as a material in most manufactured products. Research in the new programme is intended to contribute to better use of the materials already found in the system, through reuse, recycling and resource conservation.


Mistra’s research programmes usually last several years, and are aimed at bringing about change in the long term. A Mistra programme on ‘Plastic in a Sustainable Society’ is expected to provide theoretical and practical knowledge that can facilitate a switch to the use of renewable resources. Moreover, the programme is also expected to contribute knowledge of consumption, reuse and recycling of plastic.The background document identifies four focus areas:

  • biomass (renewable) as a raw material for the plastics industry
  • plastic in aquatic ecosystems
  • plastic consumption
  • waste management.

The plan is to focus the programme on solving environmental problems. For this reason, studies of the effects of plastic in ecosystems will be excluded.

Who can apply?

The call is primarily addressed at research groups at Swedish HEIs and research institutes. Researchers and organisations working abroad are welcome to join in applying as partners, but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish department or institution. Banks, asset managers and other organisations will be involved as partners.

Funding and budget

Mistra is to granting SEK 45 million for the programme. The total programme budget is, however, expected to be appreciably larger since active collaboration, including co-funding, by parties assisting in the programme is seen as a precondition for its success.This co-funding may be in cash or in kind and come from the applicants’ HEIs and/or other programme stakeholders or interested parties.Mistra’s rules for direct and indirect costs are applied in this call. See ‘Approved costs in Mistra projects’.

Application process and drafting

The application should be sent as a single PDF file by email to It should reach Mistra not later than 15 September 2015 at 4:00 pm.The application should be written in English in the form of a programme plan and may be up to 75 pages long, including appendices. If the application exceeds 75 pages, the excess parts will not be taken into account in the evaluation.The application should comprise the following parts (see also the documents on Mistra’s website):

  • summary in English and Swedish
  • vision and aims
  • academic value of the programme
  • the programme’s benefit to society
  • organisation of the programme
  • skills and networks
  • description of projects included
  • deliveries
  • communication
  • budget.

Applications will be evaluated by an expert panel composed of both researchers and practitioners, who will apply the following evaluation criteria:

  1. Programme idea and prospects of bringing about change.
  2. Academic quality of the research.
  3. Extent of collaboration between HEIs and stakeholder clients.
  4. Integration among the various parts of the programme and plan for promoting an inter- and transdisciplinary way of working.
  5. Leadership, organisation, communication and budget.

All research funded by Mistra must be relevant to the Foundation’s Statutes, especially those relating to its purpose and activities.Mistra is subject to the principle of unrestricted access to public documents, which means that all applications submitted to Mistra must be public. Under certain circumstances, Mistra can decide that parts of an application are not public.Only those applications that fulfil the requirements in this call announcement will be considered.

Time schedule

April 2015: Opening of the call.15 September 2015: closing application day (4:00 pm).October–November 2015: evaluation of applications.December 2015 (prel.): decision from Mistra’s Board.1 January 2016 (prel.): programme start.


Christopher Folkeson Welch, Programmes Director, Mistra, phone +46-8-791 10 26, +46-707-32 30 74,