Publish Date: December 1, 2022

CRDT, IIT Delhi Organises International Symposium on Circular Economy Solutions for Plastics and Microplastics jointly with University of Eastern Finland (UEF)

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New Delhi: A two-day international symposium on ‘Circular Economy Solutions for Plastics and Microplastics: Addressing the Grand Challenge’ (CESP 2022), was organised by the Centre for Rural Development and Technology (CRDT), IIT Delhi, from 29th November 2022 to 30th November 2022 jointly with the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) from Finland, as part of the Finland-India research project CESMI (Circular Economy Solutions for Microplastics) funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland, and implemented through the FICORE (Finnish Indian Consortia for Research and Education) Network.

Delegates to this symposium came from all project partners in CESMI, which include Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and UEF from Finland, and IIT Delhi, IIT Guwahati and IIT Dharwad from India.

The symposium was aimed at bringing together the technological, business, social, and policy perspectives from both India and Finland towards circular economy solutions for microplastics. The symposium was inaugurated by Prof. S.K. Khare (Dean Research & Development, IIT Delhi) and Prof. Jussi Kukkonen (Vice Dean, UEF), and conducted by Prof. Vivek Kumar and Dr. Pooja Ghosh from CRDT, IIT Delhi, and Dr. Victor Carrasco Navarro from the Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, UEF.

The initiative involved participation from various research institutes, universities, private and government organizations. Finnish delegates enunciated the issues related to microplastic contamination in sediments, ocean and inland water bodies such as freshwater lakes.

Dean R&D Prof. Sunil Kumar Khare initiated the session by discussing the various domains of research on plastic contamination in IIT Delhi, how circular economy can serve as a potential solution for the same, and how there is potential for more collaborative potential between India and Finland.

Keynote speakers shared their research experience and background details on different topics. Prof. Shishir Sinha, Director General, Central Institute of Petrochemical Engineering and Technology (Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers) emphasised on the importance of recycling plastics, however highlighted that the waste segregation at source is a major challenge.

Dr. Arto Koistinen, Director of Research Infrastructures at UEF, discussed on the reality of plastic waste in European countries. Dr. Marika Kokko, Associate Professor at TAMK, emphasised on characterisation of microplastics in the domain of municipal and industrial sludge. Dr. Anna Lahde, Associate Professor and leader of the Sustainable Materials Group at Fine Particle and Aerosol Technology Laboratory at UEF spoke on the valorisation of plastic waste which is hard to recycle.

Dr. Victor Carrasco Navarro, Project Researcher at UEF and Project Manager of CESMI, spoke on an ecotoxicological perspective on the circular economy of microplastics. Dr. Pooja Ghosh, Assistant Professor from CRDT, IIT Delhi, spoke on the occurrence, risk assessment and mitigation strategies of microplastics in different environmental matrices.

Four speakers talked about societal, business and policy perspectives on circular economy solutions for mitigating plastic pollution. Dr. Subhanjan Sengupta, Academy of Finland Post-Doctoral Researcher at UEF, highlighted the problems and challenges in business and societal ecosystems.

Mr. Ashish Jain, Founder-Director of Indian Pollution Control Association, India, focussed on action plan for reducing and recycling plastics and motivated to ensure proper recycling/processing of different kinds of plastic waste to produce other useful consumable products.

Mr. Yahwant Deval, Area Director (India and Bangladesh) from River Recycle, Finland, spoke about the need of Academia-Public-Private-Philanthropy Partnerships. Dr. D.K. Singh, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) CSR spoke of ONGC initiatives in dealing with plastic waste.

The panel discussion was led by Prof. Sudip Mitra, Associate Professor, School of Agro and Rural Technology, IIT Guwahati, and Dr. Victor Carrasco Navarro, UEF, on the various problems related to microplastic contamination and to further discuss over the mitigation strategies of the same. Participants in panel discussion included senior practitioners from ONGC, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, River Recycle, Sulabh International Social Service Organization, International Academy of Environmental Sanitation & Public Health, and Indian Pollution Control Association, and CESMI project partners.

Second half of the session had oral presentations by different scientists and researchers from various groups and labs. By the end of the day, conveners of each group presented the project outlines that emerged out of detailed deliberation. The participants and chairman of each group suggested valuable modification which shaped up these portfolios of the projects in a positive direction.

The delegates from India and Finland came together on day two for a brainstorm on potential futuristic topics related to technological, policy and business solutions towards mitigating plastic pollution and microplastic contamination. Potential funding opportunities were also explored for future collaboration and mobility between Finland and India. IIT Delhi students shared their research visions on the problem and how they can participate in the project now and in the future.