PhD Position: Behavioral aspects of improving plastic waste recycling

Wageningen University
February 14, 2023
Offerd Salary:€ 2.541
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
Working type:N/A
Ref info:N/A
Job description

Are you interested in behavior related to the circular economy and motivated to help improve the recycling of plastic household waste? Then join our Urban Economics group for a 4-year PhD position focused on assessing the behavioral aspects of alternative sorting strategies of Dutch plastic household waste! In this position, you will be part of an collaborative team of enthusiastic researchers, waste treatment professionals and key societal organizations dedicated to solving environmental sustainability challenges.

This PhD position is part of the NWO Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) MUNITION project that involves a broad consortium of Wageningen University, Radboud University, various waste treatment and plastic sorting companies as well as local governments. The overall aim of MUNITION is to quantify the effects of alternative Dutch national plastic household waste sorting policies on the recycling potential and corresponding environmental impacts (including climate change and resource use) of resulting plastic recycling systems.

You will contribute to this consortium by studying existing behavioral drivers and barriers to plastic recycling for different spatial and demographic groups of citizens. Based on these results and in collaboration with our field partners (eg., waste collectors, municipalities and plastic waste sorting facilities) you will develop alternatives for household sorting that better fit the requirements of post-sorting plants and will lead to a higher percentage of plastics being recycled. Together with our partners, you will develop and experimentally (field)test behavioral interventions to stimulate this alternative waste sorting at the household level. You will collaborate in a team of 4 PhD students, who will each cover a different aspect of the project:

  • behavioral aspects and interventions (you),
  • environmental aspects (eg., life-cycle assessment),
  • technological aspects (of the sorting process),
  • the development of a digital twin of the plastic waste recycling process (based on input of the other three PhDs).
  • The position allows you to work in a team of experts at the academic forefront of behavior change related to sustainable behavior, while also yielding tangible results to have a direct sustainability impact on society via the cooperation with the public and private (waste treatment) partners in the MUNITION project. The research is embedded within the chair Urban Economics, which is led by Prof. Eveline van Leeuwen . You will be co-supervised by Dr. Michel Handgraaf and Dr. Robert Goedegebure.


  • You hold a successfully completed MSc degree in Social Psychology, Behavioral Econonomics, Behavior Change, Consumer Behavior, Communication science, Environmental Psychology, or a related topic.
  • You have experience in setting up (field)experimental studies
  • You have affinity with and enjoy studying behavior in the field
  • You are not afraid of working with a diverse set of stakeholders
  • You enjoy collaborative research with societal impact
  • For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.


    Conditions of employment

    Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
  • In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team. The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

    There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

    You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the " Best University " in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

    Coming from abroad Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

    Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.


    Employer Wageningen University & Research

    Wageningen University & Research The mission of Wageningen University & Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR's Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

    Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video.

    You will be based in the Urban Economics chairgroup , at Wageningen University & Research. To use the potential of cities and their inhabitants to foster change, the Urban Economics (UEC) group at Wageningen focusses both on micro and macro processes.

    At the micro level, the research of the UEC group concentrates on economic behaviour, institutions, and the incentives that can contribute to more sustainable urban consumption and healthy lifestyles. We combine insights from behavioural- , micro- and spatial economics and apply this to behaviour with respect to choice and social decision making, while taking into account subjective factors, spatial and social context and (expected) consequences of behaviour.

    At the macro level, the UEC group focuses on the impacts of urbanization on actors and activities in the urban-rural interface. Important issues in this respect are the economic analysis of the changed relation between food production and consumption as well as the potential for energy and circularity transitions in cities and their hinterland. We use spatial econometric and regional input-output modelling approaches to better understand optimal interactions between cities and rural areas.

    As a group, we aim to execute impactful research. We are well connected to AMS (the Advanced Metropolitan Solutions Institute in Amsterdam), which aims to increase the connection between science and practice and supports the experimental testing and implementation of innovative scientific solutions in urban settings, usually through living labs.


    Additional information

    For more information about this position, please contact Michel Handgraaf, Associate Professor, by e-mai: [email protected] For more information about the procedure, please contact Jeanine van 't Veer, Corporate recruiter [email protected]

    Do you want to apply? You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval. This vacancy will be listed up to and including January 31st. 2023. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on the first and second week in February 2023.

    Equal opportunities Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

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