UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Big Compost Experiment goes live

8 November 2019

Our oceans are littered with plastic waste. UCL Biochemical Engineering is part of a team from across UCL and industry partners, government and public working together to help solve this environmental catastrophe, starting with Professor John Ward's compost experiment

Professor John Ward at composting bin

The Big Compost Experiment hast just launched; the nationwide citizen science research experiment in compostable and biodegradable plastics from UCL’s Plastic Waste Innovation Hub. This experiment is for everyone, whether you compost or not.

Professor John Ward is leading the experiment and has set up a composting bin close to UCL in central London to see how well plastics are broken down by microbes:

"We need the temperature to get up to at least fifty degrees centigrade for the process of composting in this Hotbin to get going, which it should do once we've got enough material in here. This first Hotbin contains PET.   For the second Hotbin it will be interesting to know how well fabrics break down as they are made of a complex mix of plastics (such as Lycra) and dyes, unlike PET1 containers that are a very pure material as they contain food and drink for human consumption." John Ward, November 2019

How can I participate?

The first part of the project is a short survey. We want to know what you think of biodegradable plastics, what you do with them, ukand if you ever compost them yourself. If you do engage in composting you can participate in a home composting experiment. We ask if you would place a few biodegradable plastic items in your compost under controlled conditions, and then report back to us about whether they compost or not.

See the website for Participant Information details 

For Big Compost Experiment or UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub enquiries contact

For information on UCL’s Plastic Waste Innovation Hub visit

Your participation is vital to help combat plastic waste.