PhD Position on Optimization of Plastic Sorting and Recycling KU Leuven, Dept. Mechanical Engineering Belgium


(Ref. BAP-2017-98)


Employment: Full time

Duration: Certain duration extendable

City: Leuven

Apply until: 31/10/2017


For KU Leuven Research & Development we are looking for a PhD researcher to optimize plastic sorting and recycling



A circular economy requires cross sector cooperation and optimization of a variety of processes and products from a holistic perspective. Due to the continuously increasing complexity of products and the rapid development of new sorting and recycling processes there is a continuous need to determine the optimal combination of existing and recently developed sorting and recycling processes for both well-known and recently emerging waste streams, such as LCD TVs, tablets and PV panels. The research group Life Cycle Engineering of the Mechanical Engineering Department of the KU Leuven has built up significant experience with the optimization of the recycling of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs) in close cooperation with several industrial partners. Within the European Horizon 2020 “PolyCe” project (2017-2021) it is the objective to apply this knowledge to plastic sorting and recycling in close cooperation with the technology campus Diepenbeek of the KU Leuven, that is focusing on polymer processing. It is the ambition of the research group to expand their research activities and to develop new optimization models and processes to better close plastic material loops in close cooperation with both original equipment manufacturers and recycling companies to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.


  • You are part of a multidisciplinary research group working on the topic of Life Cycle Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Jef Peeters, Prof. Joost Duflou and Prof. Dirk Cattrysse.
  • You are responsible for the development of optimization models to determine the preferred treatment process from an economic and/or environmental perspective for specific WEEE and ELV categories to answer questions, such as “Which products should be treated together?”, “Should plastic components be dismantled and sorted on a component level or be shredded and separated afterwards”, “How can the purity of the output of an existing plastic recycling process be improved with minimal investment?”.
  • You contribute to organizing and performing practical experiments for the sorting and recycling of plastics to gather relevant data for the optimization model.
  • You independently follow-up literature, patents, company releases, conferences, etc. and attend international conferences.
  • You report to your supervisors and to industrial partners during project meetings and contribute to the writing of project proposals.
  • You act as a coach for Master students.


  • You hold a Master in Engineering and you have demonstrated excellent optimization and research skills.
  • You foster excellent mathematical and algorithmic skills, yet like to combine these with an experimental validation approach by designing physical test set-ups and executing experiments.
  • You like to consider the broader picture and to perform life cycle costing and environmental analyses.
  • You are fascinated by environmental impact reduction strategies and you like to contribute to a significant shift in some impact generating systems.
  • You have a creative mind set and are not afraid to take initiative to look for innovative ideas and new opportunities.
  • Dutch speaking or willing to improve your language skills is an asset.
  • You are fluent in English.


  • We offer a varied and challenging job in close cooperation with industry combined with an attractive salary package.
  • We offer a research position in a stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment and a strong industrial network.
  • We give you the opportunity to obtain a PhD and build an international network.
  • We offer a work location in the nice environment of Campus Arenberg in Heverlee, Belgium.


More information is available from Mr Jef Peeters, mail: or Prof. dr. Ir. Joost Duflou, mail:


Application for this vacancy can take place until 31/10/2017 via our 

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