Can Portsmouth lead the way for a sustainable plastics future?
What is Revolution Plastics? Why is it important in the broader context of environmental sustainability?
Sustainability is about how we live and our relationship with nature. This includes the climate, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and our health and wellbeing. Over the last century the relationship between people and nature has broken down and it’s time to take urgent restorative action before it’s too late.
On a global scale, we’re experiencing a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis and a crisis in the ocean. These are interrelated and have direct impacts on our day-to-day lives. For example, in less developed countries up to 1 million people die per year as a result of mismanaged plastic waste, much of it exported from the developed world.
At the University of Portsmouth, we’re working across all faculties and with partners from around the world to understand how we can repair the relationship between people and nature, and make a meaningful contribution to achieving a sustainable future.
Through Revolution Plastics, we’re confronting the negative effects of plastic on people and nature. We’re working to achieve a triple transformation. First, to make the University of Portsmouth one of the world's leading green universities. Second, to develop a community of researchers who provide authoritative and expert knowledge, information and advice to governments, citizens, businesses, and other researchers. Third, to work with the city of Portsmouth on its transition to a more sustainable city. We’re playing a leading role in this – for example, working with the Jetsam app to better understand plastic pollution in Portsmouth and how to tackle it. I’m also the Chair of the Portsmouth Climate Action Board.
What motivates you personally in relation to this work?
I’m passionate about undertaking research that underpins meaningful and positive change for people or for the environment, and ideally for both! This led me to work for the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. I led a team of scientists who provided expert evidence to support the implementation of global agreements related to the conservation of forests, the oceans and rare species.
I've seen first hand how high-quality science can have transformative effects on the policy making process — that’s what motivates me to drive forward the Revolution Plastics initiative. I continue to work within the UN system as a member of the International Resource Panel, which is a group of scientific experts who advise global bodies such as the G20 and G7 on sustainability and resource issues.
I bring this experience and drive to the Revolution Plastics initiative. I’m personally determined to deliver a world leading program of actionable research that feeds into meaningful policy action at both the global and local scale.
Who’s involved with Revolution Plastics?
First of all, it’s important to say that Revolution Plastics is not about demonising plastic. Plastic is a critical material that supports many areas of our lives and, without it, life would be more unpleasant and risky. The recent need for plastic PPE in the Covid-19 pandemic is a clear example of this. The mismanagement and misuse of plastic at all stages of its lifecycle, however, create multiple challenges for people and for nature.
Revolution Plastics is drawing in researchers and innovators from across the University; businesses, governments and intergovernmental organisations from around the world; and citizens from Portsmouth and beyond to find solutions to the plastics crisis.
We see the whole university community as key partners in this work, through personal commitment to address the negative side of plastic use and disposal; as well as through professional and advocacy roles. We’re developing a coalition of committed individuals and organisations who really want to drive change at all levels, from our individual lifestyle choices to the laws and policies that control our use of plastics.
We see the whole university community as key partners in this work, through personal commitment to address the negative side of plastic use and disposal; as well as through professional and advocacy roles
How does this support the University’s sustainability strategy?
An integral part of Revolution Plastics is transforming the University of Portsmouth into one of the world's greenest universities. A key part of that ambition is the University’s commitment to become climate positive by 2030.
This is a highly ambitious and progressive goal, which seeks to go beyond being carbon neutral by removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we put in. Very few organisations, and even fewer universities, anywhere in the world have committed to such a challenging target. It will be tough to achieve but we are driven by our ambition to meet it!
How can others get involved with Revolution Plastics?
Revolution Plastics can transform Portsmouth. We’re entirely committed to making sure our research and innovation benefits our city and region, through local campaigns and initiatives, and by working with city partners to drive change. But we can’t do this alone. We need support from across our University community, including academics, staff, students and alumni.
You can get involved in many different ways. To start, you can make a personal commitment to reducing plastic waste, particularly single-use plastic waste, and model that behaviour at home and at work. We would love to receive your ideas and energy in supporting Revolution Plastics and invite you to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re seeking insight, innovation and examples of effective action to reduce the negative effects of plastic, so please share yours with us.
Finally, we’re working in partnership with the Jetsam app, developed by University of Portsmouth graduate, Louis Capitanchik. Jetsam allows anyone to contribute to mapping plastic pollution in Portsmouth - and beyond. The more people use the app and contribute to this citizen science project, the more we will understand about plastic flows within the city. Then, we can put interventions in place to reduce plastic entering the sea and to make Portsmouth a more sustainable and healthy place to live, work and study.