A global crisis, plastic pollution has posed significant challenges in the Philippines, where the use of single-use plastic sachets—small, sealed packaging pouches—are prevalent and difficult to recycle.
According to the World Bank, 2.7 million tons of plastic waste are generated in the Philippines each year, with an estimated 20 percent ending up in the ocean.
PlasTech Ventures, one of Lehigh’s Global Social Impact Fellowship teams, aims to address the problem by introducing a recycling system adept at redirecting plastics away from streets and oceans to recycling facilities. There, the sachets and other plastics can be transformed into products that contain the plastic for an extended duration.
The PlasTech Ventures team—Rana Akyildiz ’19, Lizzie Hayes ’24, Evan Woodward ’26, Sophie Lin ‘26—are determined to implement a system that creates opportunities in Filipino barangays (communities) to upcycle plastic waste, create jobs, foster economic growth and reduce waste. Faculty advisors are Khanjan Mehta, vice provost of Creative Inquiry; Brian Slocum, director of Design Labs; and Ganesh Balasubramanian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
Working closely with students and faculty in the HEED (Humanitarian Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Design) Program at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), the team is developing a pilot research facility for UPD’s campus.
In summer 2023, the team conducted fieldwork in Manila and reached significant milestones. The team co-initiated a research facility within UPD to gather and refine campus plastic, serving as a tangible proof of concept for local barangays. The team also strengthened a partnership with Sentinel Upcycling, a buyer of cleanly shredded plastic; and networked with people in the Filipino plastics economy to further the team’s understanding of the industry and pinpoint where it can create the most impact without disrupting existing systems.
PlasTech Ventures also met with the Quezon City Government to discuss its objectives and existing waste management practices. Documents detailing PlasTech's scope were shared to foster collaboration and partnerships.
By Haidan Hu