Dr Costas Velis

Dr Costas Velis


I am a Lecturer in Resource Efficiency Systems at the School of Civil Engineering (SoCE), University of Leeds. As Principal Investigator I lead a team with core research focus on enabling a sustainable circular economy and on preventing plastics pollution. My research portfolio is spread over the world and covers innovation for closing the materials loop and recovering value for secondary material resources and energy (after-use items, waste) – I pioneered circular economy across the university by setting up the Circular Economy & Resource Recovery (CERRY) network. I conduct interdisciplinary research, funded by UK research bodies (UKRI, NERC, EPSRC, ESCR, British Council, Innovate UK, BBSRC, Royal Academy of Engineering) and international organisations (World Bank Group, OECD, GIZ, UN-Habitat, UNESCAP, The PEW Charitable Trusts, IGES, ISWA, Grid-Arendal, SYSTEMIQ). My research collaboration outputs are in receipt of prestigious international awards, including those from the CIWM James Jacskon Award (2015), the ICE Thomas Telford Award (2014) and twice the ISWA Publication Award (2015 and 2013).

I chair the recently created by the UN Environment Community of Practice (CoP) on Harmonisation of Plastic Pollution Quantification Models and Methodologies, administered by GPML. The last four years (2017-2022) I led the ISWA Task Force on Marine Litter established by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) to prevent plastics pollution from mismanaged solid waste in the Global South. Recently my research team led or substantially contributed to the development of a suite of models to quantify plastics pollution (P2O, WFD, ISWA Plastic Pollution Calculator, SPOT) and the landmark OECD Global Plastics Outlook. You can access here our plastic pollution research in Science – further explained in The Conversation – and by the BBC News – put in context in Univestity of Leeds Spotlight – with the underlying effort explained in our Plastic-to-Ocean model page. 

Published in Science, Environmental Science & Technology, Journal of Hazardous Materials, and relevant journals, I service the academic community as Editor-in-Chief of Waste Management & Research (2019 onwards), in the Editorial Board of Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, and was recently appointed as Specialty Chief Editor for Waste Management for Frontiers In Sustainability; by regularly peer-reviewing for e.g. Science, Environmental Science & Technology, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Journal of Cleaner Production, Waste Management, Science of the Total Environment, Habitat International); and via research assessment panels. Being a Chartered Waste Manager and registered with relevant professional bodies (CIWM, Institute of Physics), I also serve as Vice Chair for the Waste to Energy Resource and Technology Council - UK and served as Vice Chair for ISWA European Group.

Expertise in waste and resources management comes with invitations to chair conference sessions and to participate in numerous scientific committees (e.g. ISWA World Congress 2019 in Bilbao, Spain, Africa Waste Congress 2014, ORBIT 2012). I often travel around the world for research projects and to deliver keynote/ invited lectures (e.g. New York, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Copenhagen, Munich, Geneva, Luanda, Athens). I was honoured to be a core author team member for the prestigious first Global Waste Management Outlook commissioned by UNEP, chaired the Waste Atlas database Scientific Committee, and having been coordinating member of numerous Task Forces of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) (e.g. Globalisation and Waste Management; Resources Management), is steering committee member of the CIWM Thermal Treatment Special Interest Group, and member of the ISWA Working Group on Energy Recovery. Recently, I was involved in the ad-hoc group contributing to the protocol for the new SDG 11.6.1 target. Our model SPOT has provided the very first global estimate of this indicator, included in the official 2022 UN SDGs reporting.  

Prior to joining University of Leeds in 2012, I was based at the Imperial College London as Research Associate in Resource Recovery. I obtained a PhD in Environmental Engineering from the Centre for Energy and Resource Technology, Cranfield University. In this applied research, I contributed to the understanding of material flows through mechanical-biological treatment plants (MBT) for the production of quality assured solid recovered fuel (SRF). I hold an MSc from Imperial College London in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development, where I investigated the informal recycling systems in developing countries (waste pikers) and the birth of modern solid waste management in Victorian Britain, and receiving also the award for Best Sustainable Project Design Guide: 'Sustainable Landfill.' My BSc studies were in physics at the University of Athens, the most historic academic institution in Greece, with a major in Environmental Physics, researching the evolution of urban air pollution and the effectiveness of control measures in Athens from 1980 to 2000.


  • Laboratory Academic Manager: Solid waste management - sample preparation laboratory

Research interests

My active research portfolio spans many aspects of circular economy and resources recovery from waste, focusing for example on plastics pollution prevention, and recycling systems in the Global South. I established and lead a state of the art laboratory specialising in production and quality assurance of secondary fuels and materials from wastes, using Theory of Sampling to ensure representative results which can be trusted. With a diverse scientific background, my research vision is to advance the agenda for the sustainable recovery of resources which are currently wasted and at the same time prevent pollution - all interlinked with meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. To this, I introduce inter-disciplinary scientific approaches to the handling of waste in a circular economy, create networks across the University (CERRY) and facilitate the uptake of research results into the ‘real world’ through industrial, NOGO and governmental collaboration. Key areas of expertise are:

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • MInstP
  • MSc
  • DIC

Professional memberships

  • IoP
  • ISWA
  • CIWM

Research groups and institutes

  • Energy Leeds
  • Water, Public Health and Environmental Engineering
  • Cities, Infrastructure and Energy

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>