Microbial Degradation of Plastic Waste

Enhancing Environmental Sustainability through Pseudomonas spp.-mediated Biodegradation of Plastic Waste

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023


Hobart, Launceston

Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

Synthetic plastics have become fundamental to almost every aspect of our lives (with approximately 3.5 million tonnes used in 2018-19 in Australia). This is attributed to their exceptional resilience against environmental factors, showcasing both physical robustness and enduring longevity. However, this trait, though advantageous, has gradually transformed into an urgent issue, leading to the accumulation of vast volumes of plastic waste on our planet (expected to be 33 billion tonnes of plastic waste generated by 2050).

The current methods for disposing of plastic waste include landfilling, incineration, and mechanical and chemical recycling with landfilling the major method due to its operability and low cost. However, these methods typically lead to secondary pollution problems. For example, microplastics produced from landfilled plastic can flow to oceans via erosion, killing marine organisms and damaging aquatic ecosystems. This has led to the proposal for biodegradation of plastic by microorganisms, such as Pseudomonas spp., without generating secondary pollution.

The aim of this project is to assess the viability of employing Pseudomonas spp. in biodegradation of plastic waste. Specifically, various members of the genus Pseudomonas will be screened for their ability to degrade diverse plastic types, such as polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PUR), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  The most promising candidates will then be selected and characterised for their growth behaviour, enabling the development of optimal conditions conducive to efficient biodegradation.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Jay Kocharunchitt


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Jay Kocharunchitt to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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