Tackling our plastics problem with big tech and big thinking
Our location here on the South Coast means that we have a unique opportunity to study marine life and water conditions. At the University of Portsmouth, we're committed to becoming a climate positive organisation by offsetting our footprint and actively reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
In addition, we're combining research excellence from across the disciplines in a revolution to tackle unsustainable plastics production with our Revolution Plastics programme.
New Podcast Series
Life Solved the Podcast returned on Tuesday 3rd of November with a special episode on the economics of sustainable living and how new research can help tackle plastics pollution in our oceans and environments.
In this special episode, you will hear from a cross-disciplinary panel of researchers sharing their perspectives on how we might innovate in technology, policy, business and production in order to tackle our world's biggest environmental problems. With some plastics taking hundreds of years to degrade in landfill and the increase of microplastics in our water systems, it is important that we find ways of minimising waste and its impacts on human health and ecosystems.
Part 1: Oceans and Plastics
Professor John McGeehan explains how colleagues at the newly-formed Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) have taken inspiration from natural processes to engineer 'cocktails' of plastic-eating enzymes. Tests have begun to see how these might be used to break down plastics into parts for a process of 'infinite recycling'.
Professor Steve Fletcher introduces principles behind the Revolution Plastics programme – a cutting-edge initiative to tackle the negative effects of plastic. He explains how, in addition to the pollution problem, plastics are worsening the use of fossil fuels and their associated environmental consequences, and impacting human health. We also explore the concept of the Circular Plastics Economy, where waste products and plastics can be recycled or re-used to create further value in society. Taking the broad view, Professor Fletcher thinks that by revisiting policy and driving systemic change in plastics production, consumption and disposal, we can create a more sustainable future.
Part 2: Waste Economics
In the second half of the programme, the conversation turns to how existing technology infrastructure and policy could be revisited to place greater economic value upon healthy environments and their resources.
Professor Pierre Failler describes some of the work he has done with developing nations and how new solutions to environmental problems can provide better economic value in parts of the world. He also shares his observations that some developing nations have been more agile and collaborative in the adoption of new processes – something which could inform the way we might face ocean governance more effectively here at home.
Looking at current attitudes to waste, Professor John Williams thinks a lack of understanding of our vital water infrastructure causes the general public not to engage with issues of water quality and its consequences for the environment. As long as our wastewater and supply systems are hidden from view, the 'flush and forget mentality' prevails. He thinks that by providing smarter, cheaper solutions to water companies, developers and local governments, there's an opportunity to use new technology to revolutionise our old-fashioned piped water systems for better water quality and environmental health.
Where can I listen?
You can listen to Life Solved on all major podcast players, whether via Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts or other apps. Just search for ‘Life Solved’ and press the subscribe button.
Life Solved is also available to stream via the University of Portsmouth website.
Throughout the series, we'll be exploring topics as diverse as canine communication, tackling antibiotic resistance, contemporary constructions of femininity and how the right kind of food packaging can actually reduce food waste.