In May 2022, about 40 researchers, mainly from Columbia University, formed the Plastic Pollution Analysis & Sustainability Solutions (PPASS) working group/network. The mission of the PPAS network is to advance science and develop innovative tools and technologies that provide sustainable management of plastic wastes for all humanity. PPASS network seeks to coordinate efforts of network members with expertise in Environmental Health, Geoscience, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Policy, Economics, and Sustainable Development to find and develop holistic and sustainable solutions to global plastic pollution by promoting internal and external multi-disciplinary collaboration.


Plastic materials are associated with the development of technology, industry, and commerce, and are an integral part of our evolution. At present, the U.S. is a major producer and consumer of plastics; however, the recycling rate of plastic waste in the U.S. pathetically was about 8.7 % in 2018, similar to the average global recycling rate of 9 %. Thus, most of these materials end up in landfills, and in many cases, in the aquatic environment. Recent estimates indicate that 710 million metric tons of plastic waste cumulatively entered aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, resulting in unprecedented environmental challenges. Physical weathering and photodegradation break those plastic wastes into microplastic MPs (1 μm to 5 mm) and nanoplastics (< 1 μm). Multiple studies have shown the occurrence and adverse effects of MPs in ecosystems and their existence in human blood and vital organs such as lungs and hearts. Recently, there have been significant concerns about NPs since they are much more accessible, compared to MPs, to enter the human body through ingestion and inhalation and can be transported to various organs by the blood.

What We Do

Our network theme is sustainable solutions to plastic pollution for climate, environmental, and health benefits. The broad objectives of the PPASS network include: 1) Develop synergy among team members to address critical research questions; 2) Identify funding sources (e.g., USAID, NSF, NIH, and private foundations, corporations), 3) Serve as the nodal point for team formation required for specific funding opportunities; 4) Develop ties with industry, and engage community and stakeholders, 5) Increase the visibility of plastics/pollution research at CU; disseminating this information by means of publications, presentations, the web, and the organization of seminars and conferences, and 6) Develop a vision plan for a certificate course on plastics at Columbia University.


Research themes
• Environmental impact
• Health impact
• Identification method development
• Waste management
• Novel 3R (recycle, reuse, repurpose) methods
• Alternative products

Systems thinking and multi-dimensional valuation approaches (analytical/computational research): This area focuses on assessing potential impacts of systems and developing tools to support resource efficiency and rational decision-making about the use of technologies for sustainable management of plastic wastes. The objective of this area is to conduct Material/Substance, Energy and Water Flow Analysis, along with holistic life cycle environmental and technoeconomic assessment, using industrial symbiosis and circular economy principles; to understand and improve the performance of systems in plastic pollution and engineer Clean Cycles and Safe Final Sinks. A lot of emphasis is on understanding emerging technologies and strategies for plastic waste management and evaluating whether these are commercially viable (or what is needed to make these solutions successful). The research on flow analyses and impact assessments focuses on industrial processes and supply chain flows, but also on regional and global flows to evaluate supply-demand risks and infrastructure gaps. A core focus is to emphasize on morphological and chemical composition of urban stocks of plastic materials including dynamics, and to expand on studies of urban metabolism and its relationship to global resource challenges and socioeconomic and environmental stresses.

Policy and Practice
Dr. Bourtsalas has been a Sr. Advisor to the United Nations: PPP Centre of Excellence on the development of sustainable development guidelines for Public and Private Partnerships (PPP) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for signatories of the UN Paris Agreement. His main focus has been on plastic waste management. For this, they have established key performance indicators and developed toolkits to be used by the nations to monitor the progress of deployment in regard to the SDGs, and have designed, executed, and analyzed stakeholder survey (over 200 respondents) to understand the role of energy recovery from plastic waste materials in low carbon/circular economy policies In addition, Dr. Bourtsalas had been an Advisor to United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on the formulation of standards for the use of non-recyclable paper and plastic materials, as alternative fuels in the energy sector of Lebanon. Furthermore, Dr. Bourtsalas had been an Advisor to the World Bank Group: International Finance Corporation, where he prepared guidance notes and strategy on actions IFC should take or require the sponsor to take, both during due diligence and during implementation of the financing to reduce the risks in sustainable waste management investments, by considering results-based financing schemes.


Upcoming event(s)

Friday Oct 20th, 10-11am Uris Hall room 333
Speaker: Dr. Zoie Diana
Title: Sustainability science: the social and ecological dimensions of plastic pollution
For Zoom link, contact: ppass.admin@ldeo.columbia.edu.

Past event(s)

Feb 17th, 2023
Title:  Introduction of Plastic Pollution and Sustainability Solutions (PPASS) network

Mar 3rd, 2023
Title: The Plastics Paradox: Balancing Convenience with Environmental Responsibility

May 31st, 2023
Title: Micro- and nanoplastics: knowns and unknowns

April 14, 2023, 10:00 AM
Title: Upgrading Pyrolysis Oil Derived From Waste Plastics – Routes to Realize Circularity in Plastics

April 28, 2023, 10:00 AM
Title: A discussion with Antonis Mavropoulos, AI, Climate Change and the case of plastic


Network Head(s)

Name Title Email
Juhl, Andrew Lamont Research Professor andyjuhl@ldeo.columbia.edu
Crowther, Andrew Assistant Professor, Chemistry acrowthe@barnard.edu
Bostick, Benjamin Lamont Research Professor bb2461@columbia.edu
Pearson, Brandon Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences blp2125@columbia.edu
Meinrenken, Christoph Associate Professor of Practice cjm2177@columbia.edu
Re, Diane Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences dr2240@cumc.columbia.edu
Yin, Huiming Associate Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics hy2251@columbia.edu
Chandran, Kartik Professor, Earth & Environmental Engineering kc2288@columbia.edu
Nguyen, Khue Staff Associate III nnk2114@columbia.edu
Silverman-Roati, Korey Climate Law Fellow kgs2133@columbia.edu
Zaima-Sheehy, Laurel Assistant Director, K12 and Continuing Education lnz2104@columbia.edu
Tedesco, Marco Lamont Research Professor mt3102@columbia.edu
Turrin, Margie Senior Staff Associate II mkt@ldeo.columbia.edu
Gerrard, Michael Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director mbg2@columbia.edu
Frearson, Nicholas Senior Staff Associate npf2101@columbia.edu
Patra, Partha Associate Research Scientist, Earth & Environmental Engineering pp2295@columbia.edu
Orton, Philip Research Associate Professor, Stevens Institute of Technology porton@stevens.edu
Stapleton, Phoebe Assistant Professor, Rutgers University stapleton@eohsi.rutgers.edu
Somasundaran, Ponisseril LaVon Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering ps24@columbia.edu
Leeman-Neill, Rebecca Assistant Professor, Pathology & Cell Biology, CUMC rjl2165@columbia.edu
Newton, Robert Lecturer bnewton@ldeo.columbia.edu
Chillrud, Steven Lamont Research Professor chilli@ldeo.columbia.edu
Min, Wei Professor, Chemistry wm2256@columbia.edu

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