C-PlaNeT Connects in Person: Life Cycle Assessment and Human Warmth

Blog post by Tiago Belé

A feeling of 'great times are coming'. - That was my thought on the plane while heading back to Germany.

The 4th of the series of training events from C-PlaNeT, at DTU - Technical University of Denmark, was above all expectations. As a consequence of being used to online meetings and events during our weird, pandemic times, the hybrid meeting in Copenhagen came as a refreshment and a catalyst for the researcher's motivation.

Denmark was (is?) passing through a period of relaxing restrictions. Masks were not compulsory anywhere, so we started the first day with an excellent breakfast and genuine smile while we met each other, ESRs and Supervisors, for the first time in person.

Following an opening by professor Thomas Astrup, ESR Rita Kol, from Portugal and based in Belgium gave a brilliant microteaching around her topic Solvent techniques for closed-loop recycling of plastics, showing us some technical challenges and results when using different types of solvent on polymer recycling.

An industrial partner, Novo Nordisk, exemplified how circularity is not a simple task if we leave the consumer outside. More than that, the consumer is a key player, being able to make impactful decisions that can reflect how a company will deal with product development.

Day 1 ended with an engaging visit to the Copenhagen Incineration Plant. Personally, I marveled at the facility and its structure. It's easy just to put fire in the trash? Think again. It's not an amateur thing to burn garbage.

Figure 1: ESRs and supervisors during a technical visit to the waste incinerator of Copenhagen. Photo by Tiago Belé

On Day 2, keeping the pace up, we had remarkable presentations on LCA, by ESR Heather Logan, from USA and based at DTU, and Dr. Stig Olsen: Life Cycle Assessment is a science by its own and a powerful tool for circularity enhancement. It is indeed so potent that we, ESRs, had a workshop focused on how diverse aspects, from social to industrial and technological, can be influenced by our research. Dr. Anders and ESR Manon did terrific work on guiding us through the LCA maze. There are so many players, concepts and variables in this game that one needs to keep the whole of his cognitive forces on the task and don't mess around.

On day 3 we had some expert insights on Microplastics and LCA, by Dr. Anna Hartmann and Professor Thomas Astrup, respectively.

Despite all the technical and scientific knowledge, which was a delight to absorb and interact being there, this is what we really have missed: to look people in the eye and think and interact together to achieve a shared understanding and solve a problem. To have an intense in-person meeting move the spirits up!

More than that, when in person, seeing a passionate or well-versed lecture, the information given and received is imbued with such life that it becomes printed in your mind: Unforgettable, and you are on a clearer path to becoming an expert after that. A great example was the lecture ministered by professor Michael Hauschild, when explaining concepts on Absolute Sustainability, the uncertainties on how humanity's technological developments contributed to a warmer planet, and the examples we are to each other.

To wrap it up, the in-person meeting confirmed: It's a dream-like state of being to acknowledge that I'm part of such a team, with an international body of experts as supervisors and admirable peers. I am looking forward to NTE5.

Figure 2: ESRs and supervisors in an outdoor moment during NTE4. Photo by Tiago Belé