Single-Use Plastics – What about it? Event 18 October 2018
On 18 October the NRN-LCEE hosted an event to explore some of the problems and solutions around the topic of single-use plastics. 4 speakers each covered a different area of the plastics problem and shared their insights, findings and ideas with an enthusiastic audience.
Wouter Poortinga from Cardiff University spoke on the topic of ‘Policies, behaviour and single-use plastics’. He looked at some of the ways to change people’s habits around single-use plastics, and used the single-use plastic bag charge as an example of a successful policy. He has been researching ways in which other policies could reduce the use of other single-use items for example coffee cups. Interestingly, the research has indicated that charging people an extra amount to purchase a single-use item works better than offering a discount for people using a re-usable item.
Richard Quilliam from the University of Stirling spoke on the topic of ‘Microbial hitch-hikers of marine plastic debris: The survival, persistence & ecology of microbial communities in the Plastisphere’. He looked at the spread of plastics in waterways and oceans and the suitability of plastic surfaces on which microbial biofilms can form. These in turn can host pathogens, some of which are harmful to humans. Microplastics are easily discarded in household waste water but sewage plants were never designed to remove micro-plastics, meaning that contaminated microplastics can pass through the plants and enter our waterways and, if they are trapped, can be spread onto crops in fertiliser.
Edward Kosior from NEXTEK Ltd gave a talk on ‘A future vision for sustainable packaging – Problems, challenges and solutions’. He looked at the different plastics currently available and the disparity of ways to recycle each of the types. The presentation discussed the benefits of plastic packaging for minimising food waste, but he emphasised that we must be able to recycle all forms of plastic packaging, not just some. He discussed some of the new technologies currently being developed to improve plastic recycling and the need for companies to use packaging that was both recycled and recyclable and for consumers to start to only purchase products in recyclable packaging.
Gary Leeke from Cranfield University spoke about ‘Adding value to mixed waste plastic’. He discussed about some of the more harmful methods of getting rid of plastic waste, such as burning and spoke of the need for a closed-loop recycling system. He then talked about some of the ways scientists are working on new biodegradable plastics and recycling technologies. One of the areas that he has been working is in helping to develop a new recycling system which could be added to recycling plants and which can turn residual plastic waste into wax and petrochemical feedstock, leading to a closed loop recycling system.
Artist Julia Barton exhibited some of the works from her Littoral Art Project, Sci-Art project investigating & visualising plastic pollution on Scotland’s beaches. It added a pertinent visual display during the event to highlight the damage plastics are causing to our environment.
Publication date: 25 October 2018