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Together, industry and science aim to improve mechanical plastics recycling.

Together with the JKU Institute for Polymeric Materials and Testing, the Johannes Kepler University Linz is coordinating the circPLAST-mr research project which will address the mechanical recycled plastic process.

25 renowned partners in industry, science, and academia will be working together to improve and streamline the recycling process in an effort to ultimately reduce plastic waste in the environment. With a total research budget of € 6.2 million, the new project is scheduled to run until March 2026. The Climate Ministry is providing €4 million in funding.


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The Objective

Plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere else in our environment for that matter. Nevertheless, plastic has many facets and separating different types of plastic cleanly and correctly will result in being able to better recycle plastic. In this way, the 920,000 tons of plastic waste generated annually in Austria could be recycled better, thereby significantly reducing the environmental strain. Austria's recycling rate is currently only 26%, meaning we need to take action because the EU's plastics strategy is calling for a 55% recycling rate by 2030.

Led by the Institute for Polymeric Materials and Testing at the JKU, the circPLAST-mr research project is addressing this important topic. For the first time in Austria, 25 partners in industry and science will be working together to raise the proportion of recycled plastics and improve the closed loop plastic process starting from production, via the consumer to recycling.

Did you know that ...

… the EU's strategy regarding plastics stipulates a 55% recycling rate by 2030?

... in 2015, 78% of Austria's plastic waste was incinerated, 21% was recycled, and 1% was disposed of in landfills?

Reinhold Lang, head of the Institute of Polymeric Materials and Testing at the JKU, a university professor, and circPLAST-mr's project leader states: "Funded by the Ministry of Climate Change (BMK), we have succeeded in creating circPLAST-mr, a unique lead research project. This pioneering research project is unique in Europe, not only in terms of project volume and design, but also in terms of its partner structure. We are very much looking forward to working together on this project and with our partners. This research project is also an opportunity to involve students, particularly on an academic level."

Reinhold Lang, head of the Institute of Polymeric Materials and Testing at the JKU Reinhold Lang, head of the Institute of Polymeric Materials and Testing at the JKU

One of the project's special features includes the partner structure as mentioned by Prof. Lang. This structure spans the entire range of expertise and the mechanical plastic recycling value chain. Together, the 25 industrial, academic and scientific partners bring essential expertise in materials sciences and technology, process engineering, measurement and sensor technology, digitalization and eco-efficiency-based process design to the table, opening new doors when it comes to working together on an interdisciplinary level.

JKU Rector Stefan Koch: "Effective closed-loop recycling and reducing plastic waste are important in an effort to make our planet more sustainable. The JKU can play a pioneering role at this location by bringing science and business together. Our flagship project, circPLAST-mr, is a prime example, pooling expertise in various disciplines ranging from materials proccessing and process engineering to AI and data science, making mechanical recycling even more effective."

JKU Rector Stefan Koch JKU Rector Stefan Koch

Re-Thinking Plastic!

Learn more about the Bachelor's Degree Programme in Sustainable Plastics Technology and a Circular Economy!

circPLAST-mr: Research Content and Overall Objectives

circPLAST-mr is a research project bringing participating partners together (11 scientific partners, 14 corporate partners) along with their existing expertise and an overall objective to significantly advance understanding and competence along the entire plastics recycling chain. This chain is an indispensable cycle and must soon meet ambitious political target quotas in the area of plastics recycling. On one hand, generating this type of understanding refers to needed processes and material-technical aspects and measures, but also logistical requirements to support waste and material flow management while also taking ecological criteria (LCA) and increased company competitiveness into account.


There are four main objectives in the general research program:

  1. Identifying and exploring as yet untapped potential in the area of mechanically recycled plastics
  2. Defining and testing central process steps on a laboratory/pilot scale
  3. Creating "specification-compliant" recyclates to ensure eco-efficient marketability
  4. Verifying lab/pilot scalability from process steps to production scale.

JKU Project Contact Persons:

The Work Packages - Step-by-Step

Research Program Structure


In terms of methodology, circPLAST-mr has been structured into a total of seven work packages (WP) as follows:

  • WP1: Project Management and Dissemination
  • WP2: Material Flow Preparation I - Collection & Pre-Sorting
  • WP3: Material Flow Preparation II - Washing & Re-Sorting
  • WP4: Material Conversion I - Recycled Pellets/Semi-Finished Products
  • WP5: Material Conversion II - Recyclate End Products
  • WP6: Data Management & Digitization
  • WP7: LCA-Oriented Process Design & Legal Considerations

Work packages WP2 to WP5 each cover successive process engineering steps and material aspects within the plastics recycling process chain, while the work packages WP6 and WP7 cover cross-sectional topics realting to the entire process chain. The management of the entire research project is allocated to work package WP1. Click here to learn more about individual work packages.

Forschungsprojekt circPLAST Übersicht Arbeitspakete
Forschungsprojekt circPLAST Übersicht Arbeitspakete

Partner Quotes

"The circular economy is a key issue of the future and will help meet climate goals; using both Data Science and AI methods will contribute to accelerating the process. The SCCH is proud to be able to lend its expertise in digitization to support this seminal flagship project."

"Waste plastic is recyclable! In this regard, it is vitally important to close the plastics cycle. Even if we can only convert plastic waste into high-quality recycling and avoid thermal recycling, we not only meet our recycling goals, but we also contribute significantly to conserving resources as well as reducing greenhouse gases and waste. I am pleased to be part of this unique project consortium along the "plastics" value chain so we can move ne step closer to reaching this ambitious goal."

"On account of the consortium alone, the lead project circPLAST-mr deserves lead project status so it can pave the way to increased circularity and more sustainability in the plastics industry. Teamwork along the value cycle will be put to the test here, which is why we believe that the Plastics Cluster can successfully contribute to the project!"

"In terms of sustainability, we need to significantly increase the recycling rate. Our mission is to successfully transfer results from cutting-edge research into production applications. We will apply our expertise in the field of intelligent, combined sensor technology and fully commit to improving the plastics recycling processes, making them more 'green'. After all, we want to shape the future and take responsibility for the next generation."

"In our case, the EU's recycling targets beginning in 2025 mean doubling plastic packaging recycling. In this regard, and as the market leader, ARA AG has a special responsibility. In order to meet this challenge, we have to work on several parameters: recyclable packaging, expanding our collection, high-tech sorting, and new application areas for secondary plastics. The insight and findings from the circPLAST-mr project will be an important building block to achieve our goals."

"The digital world offers many ways in which we can make progress and take action in the area of plastics circularity. We believe working together with circPLAST-mr will help make it happen and speed up the progress."

"From a legal standpoint, recycling is immensely attractive: There are numerous challenges at the crossroads of waste and product law that can only be solved using an interdisciplinary approach and in close partnership with the law, technology, and business. Working together as part of a collaborative cross-over team to explore new approaches in regard to sustainable resource use is something we at the Institute for Environmental Law consider to be a unique opportunity."

"As a plastic packaging producer, we understand just how important a circular economy is. We aim to support and implement a circular economy across all levels. This is why we are pleased to come together with the entire industry and be a part of the lead project circPLAST-mr, a project that is also politically supported and funded. We can only create high-quality recycled materials for subsequent reuse in food packaging if we can work together to successfully create a circular economy. Our stated objective is a holistic project approach, something we consider to be very important."


circPLAST-mr is a lead project approved as part of the first call for proposals within the RTI Initiative Circular Economy. Funded by the BMK, the project is managed by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).


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Space for Improved Recycling

From Plastic Waste to Frisbees

Work Packages - Step-by-Step

Learn more about the individual APs and their respective content

25 Well-Known Partners -
1 Project