Plastics pandemic project wins Catalyst Program funding

A cross-disciplinary research project involving Duke Kunshan faculty Kathinka Fürst that will investigate solutions to plastic pollution has received seed funding from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions through its Catalyst Program.

The project seeks to build and advance collaborations to create policy and technology interventions for the plastic pollution pandemic through a working group of Duke University faculty and students.

As a part of the global study, Fürst is working on an in-depth analysis on the sub-national Chinese policy instruments targeting plastic production, utilization and recycling.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this endeavor and to build connections between the Duke and DKU campuses on this timely and important global environmental challenge,” said Fürst, associate director of the Duke Kunshan Environmental Research Center and a faculty affiliate at the Nicholas Institute.

“China is undoubtedly a pivotal driver in the global plastic pandemic, but the country also could hold important keys to addressing it,” she said. “China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, and throughout the country we’re seeing new and innovative policies and technological advancements to mitigate the plastic pandemic.”

Fürst’s research group, which includes 11 other Duke faculty, has already produced a manuscript detailing remediation innovation in the private sector that is preventing plastic leakage or removing plastic from waterways. The report will form part of the Nicholas Institute’s upcoming global plastics policy analysis for the Pew Foundation.

The Catalyst Program, now in its fourth year, aims to build on the Nicholas Institute’s mission by increasing engagement with Duke faculty to incubate and advance new partnerships, enhance policy knowledge and create innovative policy solutions based on creative synergies.

Also included among this year’s funding recipients is a project involving Billy Pizer, professor of environmental science and policy at Duke and Duke Kunshan, to design a board game in which players learn about solar geoengineering’s effect on the geopolitical dynamics of climate policy.

“More than ever this year, the Catalyst Program promises to live up to its name,” said Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute. “When our current public health crisis eases and the world is able to safely open up again, we hope that these projects will be in the pipeline and ready to accelerate with our colleagues around the university.”