PhD researcher: Circular Food Packaging


Job title: PhD student

Department: Green chemistry and technology 

Occupancy rate: 100%

Type contract: limited duration

Closing date: 15/02/2022

Diploma: master in environmental engineering, bioscience engineering or similar

Job description

We welcome applications for a full-time PhD position within the Research Group Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN) of the Department of Green Chemistry and Technology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, UGent. The PhD student will be appointed in a fellowship position on the project "CIRCULAR FOODPACK”.


A short summary of the CIRCULAR FOODPACK project:

CIRCULAR FOODPACK is an EU HORIZON 2020 project, coordinated by Fraunhofer-Gesellschafts in Germany, and aims to facilitate the circular use of plastic food packaging. This sector contains 87% of all European flexible plastic-plastic multilayer composites (MLC) due to the high requirements for food preservation and safety. However, these MLC laminates cannot be recycled by state of the art processes and thus counteract the circular use of food packaging. We will demonstrate the project results by production of high-quality recycled PE at TRL 5-6, using Sensor-Based-Specification or Tracer-Based-Sorting (TBS, SBS), deinking and thermally assisted deodorization as well as solvent-based or mechanical recycling processes. Innovative designs of recyclable and food-safe mono-material laminates will enable the re-use in high-value film applications, with upcoming food packaging marking with deinkable tracers. This allows a future circular economy of food packaging, if TBS guarantees a sorting of food grade materials. Product characterization, food contact compliance testing, LCA, LCC and business modelling will support and guide process development, upscale and design new packaging.


Your tasks will mainly be connected to WP7 which focuses on the selection and quantification of new value chains and their products which will be compared to baseline treatment scenarios (open loop recycling or incineration) and reference packaging. The scenarios for comparison will be defined in close collaboration with the technology and packaging developers. Also, consistent process flow schemes of the full value chain in the defined scenarios has to be set up, including collection, sorting, pre-treatment, recycling, manufacturing of the new packaging, use of the packaging for food or personal care products, and finally the end-of-life treatment of the packaging. Mass and energy balances have to be obtained in close collaboration with the involved partners, starting with the preliminary data collection (for hotspot analysis in function of intermediate feedback) that will be refined further on in the project. Key challenges will be to obtain mass and energy balances being representative at full scale in the final analysis and to obtain inventories at life cycle level. With respect to the latter level, information obtained from the partners will be coupled into existing life cycle inventory databases. Furthermore, a tailor-made Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) framework for CIRCULAR FoodPack will be developed starting from the UNEP-SETAC LCSA framework and other existing comprehensive sustainability frameworks (e.g. H2020 REPAIR) and making advantage of knowledge acquisition in relevant running projects. The CIRCULAR FoodPack framework will consider environmental impacts through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), economic impacts through Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and social impacts through Social LCA (s-LCA), as well as circularity aspects,

food waste and compliance to health and safety legislation.


Job Profile

Candidates are expected to have an engineering background and/or affinity with sustainability analysis methods such as life cycle assessment. For this project we are looking for someone who is critical, analytical and has a sense of initiative. Affinity with plastic food packaging is a plus.

Other profile requirements:

- You hold a master's degree in environmental engineering, bioscience engineering, or equivalent.

- You are interested in scientific research in order to obtain a doctoral degree.

- You have good writing and presentation skills.

- You have a very good oral and written knowledge of academic English.

- Plus points: 1) You have experience in carrying out quantitative and/or qualitative research and in collecting data independently and 2) You have experience with LCA software such as openLCA, Gabi, SimaPro, etc. and LCA databases (e.g. ecoinvent).


How to apply

Please send an email, no later than February 14th 2022, to:

- Prof. Dr. ir. Jo Dewulf (

The subject of the email should contain the following title: 'Application PhD CIRCULAR FOODPACK + family name’.

The following documents must be attached: letter of motivation, CV, a copy of the highest degree and a summary of the results of the studies.

Students graduating in January/February or June 2022 are also welcome to apply.

Selection procedure:

- Preselection based on the provided documents

- Selection based on interviews

Planned starting date doctoral position: March 1st, 2022 (the earliest).

You will be recruited on the basis of competencies. Qualities of people are decisive, regardless of gender, religion, ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation or any disability.

For more information about the content of this position and the CIRCULAR FOODPACK project, please contact

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  • Application deadline: Feb 15, 2022
  • Ghent University
  • Research Group Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN), Department of Green Chemistry and Technology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
  • Ghent, Belgium
  • PhD and Postdoc Positions
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