Isenhour part of multidisciplinary $1.3M NSF project to address waste through circular economy

A professor of anthropology and climate change at the University of Maine is collaborating on a multidisciplinary project to address waste through circular economy design.

Cynthia Isenhour is one of several researchers from five universities working on the project led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.

Recycling is only part of the solution to control and mitigate the proliferation of waste, according to the University of Pittsburgh. The researchers aim to use convergence research to advance understanding of circular economies and to explore solutions to society’s complex resource and waste challenges.

The team’s proposal, “Convergence Around the Circular Economy,” received a two-year $1.3 million award from the National Science Foundation’s new Growing Convergence Research program. The award has the potential to be extended to five years and $3.6 million.

“Circular economy offers a promising solution as it aims to cycle products and materials back into production through creating new products or benign degradation,” says Melissa Bilec, deputy director of the Mascaro Center, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow at Pitt, and the award’s principal investigator.

“With our project, we are aiming to advance the much needed fundamental science behind circular economy solutions by not only designing products with an eye towards circularity, but also in alignment with sustainability goals.”

Isenhour, who is a faculty associate in the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, has spent years studying economic and environmental policies designed to reduce waste, emissions and resource use, including her ongoing research on Maine’s secondhand markets.

A University of Pittsburgh news release about the NSF project is online.