Internship | Development of a model to help accelerating a circular plastics economy

Plastics are an essential component of our everyday life, but how can we ensure that they can be used to their full potential do not end up in an incinerator after their use phase and become a circular product?



Education type

university (wo)


Internship and graduation project

Hours a week

Fulltime – 40


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What will you be doing?

The government and the European commission are pressing to reduce the environmental impact of human activities and change our current linear economy to a system with little or no waste, where all materials are preserved and reused. This involves all parts of society and all sorts of production processes. In particular, the Circular Economy & Environment unit (CEE) is intensively studying the opportunities and barriers to achieve a fully circular plastic value chain. This means looking and chemical recycling processes, redesigning products and developing new and more efficient plastic waste management strategies, e.g. by better sorting and waste collection systems. An essential step to close the plastic loop, is gathering data and information on the state of the art technologies and processes for waste management, in order to build models and tools to support the transition to circular plastics. In this context, you will be gathering data and investigating the available literature on the main plastic waste streams in the Netherlands regarding magnitude and quality of the plastic streams, possibilities and limitations of the current sorting technologies.
More concrete you will work on the expansion of the Plastic Recycling Impact Scenario Model PRISM and its adaptation to the a particular study case in Chemelot. You will be responsible under the guidance of senior colleagues to implement a scenario-based approach that can shed light on the potential and feasibility of the supply of plastic waste to Chemelot. You will be part of the team working in the Program line 5 of Brightsite ( and your input will be valuable to understand the transition pathway for a circular and sustainable chemical cluster.

What do we require of you?

The variety of sectors producing plastic waste and the variety in sorting technologies make that we accept students from masters and bachelors from most scientific and technical backgrounds. A background that includes industrial ecology, waste management or environmental sciences is preferred but not essential. Enthusiasm and curiosity for the topic are the most important recommendations. Your activities will require the use of Excel and will be carried out in an international team, which requires a good knowledge of the English language. Knowledge of linear optimization will also be important.

What can you expect of your work situation?

TNO is an independent research organisation whose expertise and research make an important contribution to the competitiveness of companies and organisations, to the economy and to the quality of society as a whole. Innovation with purpose is what TNO stands for.
Your work will be carried out inside the Climate, Air & Sustainability (CAS) unit in Utrecht. This unit gathers several experts in impact assessment and environmental impact of plastic waste, from which you will be able to learn and get insights in the field of circular economy. You will be supervised by one of the experts inside CAS and your work will add to the state-of-the-art models that TNO is developing to guarantee the achievement of our environmental goals. The work that we do in CAS has a direct impact in shaping future policies and industrial best practices to achieve a circular plastic economy!

What can TNO offer you?

You want to work on the precursor of your career; an internship gives you an opportunity to take a good look at your prospective future employer. TNO goes a step further. It’s not just looking that interests us; you and your knowledge are essential to our innovation. That’s why we attach a great deal of value to your personal and professional development. You will, of course, be properly supervised during your internship and be given the scope for you to get the best out of yourself. Naturally, we provide suitable internship compensation.

Has this vacancy sparked your interest?

Then please feel free to apply on this vacancy! For further questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Due to Covid-19 and the consequent uncertainties and restrictions, students who are not residing in the Netherlands may currently not be able to start an internship or graduation project at TNO.

Contact: Toon Harmelen, van
Phone number: +31(0)88-86 62033

Note that applications via email and third party applications are not taken into consideration.


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Toon van Harmelen MSc

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