Wednesday 21st June 2023


1.15pm - 4.00pm


Dr Cressida Bowyer - Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of Revolution Plastics, University of Portsmouth, UK




Arts-based methods are increasingly being used in academic research to explore lived experience from a grassroots perspective. Artistic methods democratise the research process and disrupt traditional academic hierarchies, often revealing diverse values, and enhancing understanding. When communities collaborate with researchers to find solutions, the results are more local, targeted and contextually sensitive. 

This session will include past and present projects in the Global South, methodologies and workshops.


  • Community-based participatory research 
  • The range of arts based methods
  • Working in different contexts
  • Practical workshops



Dr Cressida Bowyer

University of Portsmouth

Part 1: The Role of community engagement in tackling plastic pollution


James Wakibia

Role of individuals in the fight against plastic pollution

Short Talks:

Alice Darondeau

The SeaCleaners

The SeaCleaners

Savannah Schaufler

University of Vienna, Austria

“Plast(dem)ic:” Materiality, Behavior, and COVID-19

Luca Marazzi


Plastic litter has no place in the natural environment – key findings from the Plastic Free Mersey Project

Victoria Prowse & Helen Powers

Environment Agency, East Midlands Regulated industry Team

Regulated Exhibition

Panel Q&A:

The Role of community engagement in tackling plastic pollution

Tea Break

Part 2: Participatory arts-based research methods: Examples from the global south


Nelmo Newsong (Nelson Munyiri)

Artist and Executive Director at Mukuru Youth Initiative

‘Impact of creative methods in influencing social change’

Short Talks:

Angela McDermott

Waste Aid

MASIBAMBISANE: Towards a local circular economy in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Nicola Hay

University of Portsmouth


Dr Leanne Proops

University of Portsmouth

Terrestrial Plastic Pollution and its Threat to Livestock and Livelihoods

Panel Q&A:

Perspectives from the global south


Title: The SeaCleaners
Authors: Gwenaële Coat1, Alice Darondeau1, Maxime Delaye1
1. The SeaCleaners

Marine litter is one of the predominant wicked problems of our time. It is a time bomb worsening by the day due to increased production and the faulty life cycle of the materials produced. As with all wicked problems, a solution is not obvious and needs to be inclusive of all actors of the field, in an active dialogue to target behavior change at all levels.

The SeaCleaners (TSC, an international non-profit) operates in Indonesia with its marine litter collecting vessel the Mobula 8. This pilot project reflects the missions and broad activities that the non-profit is tackling not only at sea, but also on land. By collecting coastal marine litter with its vessels, The SeaCleaners aims to clean areas in the most polluted zones across the globe; Indonesia being its first operating field for floating marine debris internationally.

The SeaCleaners proposes to discuss this pilot project that involves several actors of the plastic life cycle, making it a transdisciplinary project in its approach:

  • By collecting marine debris, TSC also characterizes and geolocates the litter collected to understand it.
  • By researching the litter collected in detail, and further linking it to microplastic presence and characterization, TSC also aims to contribute to the science around marine debris in not only quantity and quality but also in its impact to the ecosystems.
  • By proposing solutions for disposal or reuse of the litter collected, it engages locally and on land to start a dialogue with the local community at large in the hope to integrate low tech solutions without duplicating and potentially inject opportunities that may not be available locally.
  • By adapting educational tools and games culturally, including short films, TSC engages in grassroot activities in schools and the community at large. Its network relays these awareness raising activities for a more inclusive approach.

The goal is to tackle the issue by gathering evidence that will be used at a policy level to complement behavior change happening in the community and explore low hanging fruit solutions first and expand further accordingly.

Content for panel discussion or workshop: The panel will discuss the many components shaping TSC’s in-country activities and how these first operational activities serve as a pilot program and model for subsequent operations in other locations in Asia and other continents. The activities, including research, awareness raising, collection and waste management, are at the basis of TSC missions and prepare the arrival of its ambassador vessel The Manta. The vessel, flagship of the NGO, reflects the same missions for research, collection and waste management as well as awareness raising and education for behavior change and policy making to fight plastic pollution globally.

Title: “Plast(dem)ic:” Materiality, Behavior, and COVID-19
Authors: Savannah Schaufler1
1. University of Vienna
Biography: Savannah Schaufler is a project assistant for the FWF funded project “Air and Environmental Health in the (Post-)COVID-19 World” and a PhD student at the Doctoral School for Ecology and Evolution at the University of Vienna. During her studies at the University of Vienna, where she graduated with honors in Evolutionary Anthropology, she participated in several inter- and transdisciplinary projects at the intersection of cultural, human, and biological sciences. In addition, she is finishing her bachelor’s degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology and has already published in peer-reviewed literature. She is also a trained paramedic and has worked as a medical assistant for several years.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 came increased demand for single-use plastics in response to hygiene and sanitary demands. This usage further exacerbated the global plastic waste problem. Plastic products are an integral part of the global economy, yet an ever-increasing proportion of discarded plastic and single-use products is ending up in the world’s oceans, landfills, and dumpsites. Given this background, the existing exploitation and degradation of the Earth is once again highlighted and the vulnerability of ecological systems to plastic waste pollution made visible, affecting the well-being of humans, non-humans, and more-than-humans globally.

Jane Bennett (2010) engages with the “political ecology of things” by ascribing them as actors in worldly affairs. Thereby, Bennet addresses the question of whether a discursive shift from environmentalism to vital materialism would improve sustainability thinking. Ivan Illich (1973) also advocates that individuals should become more aware of the existence of natural scales and boundaries and begin to live in a more convivial way to restore the imbalance between humans and nature.

Considering posthumanist, materialist, philosophical, and ecological perspectives, this paper argues for inter- and transdisciplinary research at the intersection of behavioral and environmental awareness. In particular, behavioral change tends to manifest slowly in the context of consumption and pollution, attributable to cognitive dissonance and the value-action gap, among other factors. In doing so, I introduce the portmanteau “plast(dem)ic” to illustrate how fast-moving and pervasive the problems of exploitation, visibility, and inequality associated with plastic and plastic waste are. Drawing on the “material turn,” the paper illustrates how human cultures are part of many other material cultures in the world. The aim of this paper is to question and discuss existing perspectives and to complement them with behavioral aspects related to views on sustainability and social change. 

Title: Plastic litter has no place in the natural environment – key findings from the Plastic Free Mersey Project
Authors: Luca Marazzi1, Hannah Smith1, John Sanders2, Lucy Jackson1, Dave Morritt3
1. Thames21
2. Mersey Rivers Trust
3. University of Royal Holloway, London
Biography: Luca is an environmental scientist with a specialisation in aquatic ecology. His recent research has focused on: citizen science and plastic pollution in rivers; algal diversity and ecology in subtropical wetlands; and wetland restoration; in previous roles he worked on air quality, climate change, and biodiversity. He has been working at Thames21 as Plastic Free Rivers Project Coordinator since spring 2021, part-time since last summer, after taking on a Higher Scientific Officer role in the Noise and Statutory Nuisance at the UK Government Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Luca manages the Plastic Free Mersey project and advises on the Plastics Action project to better understand plastic pollution dynamics through citizen science and to engage volunteer groups, stakeholders, and communities to seriously tackle this environmental problem. Luca’s motto is Research * Engagement = Progress.

The Plastic Free Mersey Project is a citizen science and engagement project delivered by the Mersey Rivers Trust and Thames21, working with local volunteers, plastics and waste management businesses and trade associations, and academic experts. The project’s key goals are to improve our understanding of litter distribution and possible sources and to help reduce it in collaboration with partners and stakeholders.

The project team has been training and empowering citizen science volunteers to survey plastic and other litter for >12 months at 20 sites along 12 rivers to quantify and characterise and explore likely sources of such litter on Mersey riverbanks. Volunteers safely collect most of the waste they record and dispose of it appropriately, helping to clean up their local river environments.

Surveys carried out by ~20 volunteers identified plastics as the prevalent material (especially food and drink related waste) around the rivers of the Mersey catchment, with plastic food packaging, sanitary items (such as plastic-containing wet wipes), plastic bags, and cigarette butts comprising >50% of the litter found on Mersey riverbanks. Other litter included glass and mixed materials. Litter fragments were very abundant at various sites. Higher litter abundance was associated with the absence of bins at various sites. The high abundance of wet wipes at one site seems to be due to the frequent discharge by an upstream sewage overflow structure.

Our key recommendations include: deal with overflowing bins; monitor the effectiveness of bins and replace them with better or more bins; place signs to deter people from littering (e.g., stating fines and engaging people on the issue in a creative way; urge people take their rubbish home, when bins are absent or full). We are exploring solutions to reintroduce some of the litter found into the circular economy with our partners. To engage local communities, we are organising a ‘Plastic Blitz’ community event during Mersey Rivers Week in July and recruiting and training new volunteers to collect further data to consolidate and expand our findings. To reduce plastic pollution and its impacts on wildlife, businesses, individuals, communities, and policy makers all have a role to play.

Title: Regulated Exhibition
Authors: Helen Powers, Victoria Prowse, Joshua Sofear
Biography: The artist Joshua Sofaer works across boundaries, borders and disciplines to develop artworks that engage with all levels of society. He is an artist who works mainly with performance and installation. He often sets up situations in which the response to an invitation for public participation is then incorporated as an aesthetic function of the piece. What draws Sofaer’s diverse practices together is a concern with how audiences engage with the world. People’s experience is key, as are the material cultures they choose to surround themselves with.
Recurring themes of his work include ‘collections’ (what we choose to keep), ‘rubbish’ (what we choose to throw away), ‘names’ (how we become what we are called), and ‘noses’ (the overlooked organ in the middle of our faces).

In 2019 Artist Joshua Sofaer, BACKLIT Gallery and East Midlands Environment Agency (EA) Regulated Industry Team formed a partnership. Their aim was to develop creative mechanisms to raise awareness of the issues around plastic in the environment and the role of Regulated Industry. The target audience was sectors of the community that each stakeholder, on their own, would otherwise not engage with. Joshua accompanied officers on site visits and wrote accompanying blog posts. BACKLIT Gallery hosted an exhibition in October - December 2021. This included a room displaying facts, a film documenting an officer's site visit highlighting the link between plastic and wildlife, a voice recording called phatonsiom was played to reflect core skills of a Regulated Industry officer and a life size cast of a Nottingham resident weighing 98.66kg was filled with plastic donated by visitors who attended the exhibition. This weight reflects the UK's annual per capita household waste. During the time of the exhibition school groups attended and took part in STEM workshops designed by the EA. The local BBC News attended this session and also interviewed the EA's Area Environmental Manger. Regulated Industry joined up with STOPTRA a local community group near the gallery for litter picking sessions to further spread awareness of the issue of single-use plastic. The data gained from items collected at the litter pick fed into a national project on plastic pollution. EA and BACKLIT held a Q&A panel session for the local community to further engage in the project. The accumulative impact of all the events has led to much awareness raising. The exhibition also prompted the gallery to started an Eco Arts Group for other arts venues in the city which EA is supporting, creating further environmental benefits. We can conclude that this creative approach was pivotal in allowing all stakeholders to raise awareness within sectors of the community they had been unable to do before. Due to the success of 'Regulated Exhibition' stakeholders have continued to stay in touch and develop further projects.

Title: The Global Health Network’s knowledge hub Mesh: Sharing resources and learning around community engagement with health research in LMICs
Authors: Trudie Lang, Helen Latchem, Adam Dale, Elizabeth Allen, Mercedes Rumi, Frank Kagoro

Trudie Lang is Professor of Global Health Research; Head of The Global Health Network and Senior Research Scientist in Tropical Medicine, Nuffield Department of Medicine. She has over 20 years’ experience in running clinical trials, including trials in the developing world, for the pharmaceutical industry, the World Health Organisation and in academia.

Trudie focuses on combating diseases of poverty through the generation of high-quality evidence. She has worked in industry, academia and UN organisations. With her team and partners, she works to drive better health outcomes in vulnerable communities by enabling local leadership and ground-up implementation of high-quality health research studies.

Within the University of Oxford, she devised and leads The Global Health Network which is a major international collaborative enterprise that sets out to improve health by improving research.

We believe that engaging communities with research is vital to improving human health, especially in regions most effected by health inequality and disease. Environmental pollution is global health crisis where social movements, community activism and engagement with research will be central to the solution. From traditional puppetry to raise awareness of India’s environmental health challenges among school students to Citizen Science Reporters in Malaysia gathering data on rubbish disposal concerns; creative and participatory work in communities can be powerful.

The Global Health Network brings research capabilities to healthcare teams in low-income countries and also shares research know-how, findings and processes between disease areas, regions and organisations. Our Mesh hub is a neutral online space where community and public engagement practitioners, researchers, health workers and others can network, share resources and discuss good practice in community engagement.

Mesh aims to ensure the value of community engagement is recognised by a diversity of stakeholders and that it is considered an integral part of research. We want to strengthen leadership, share learning and connect those working in community engagement with pollution, climate change and health. We run workshops and events, curate theme areas on key topics in engagement, showcase innovative projects and share news from the field.

With over 500,000 active members, The Global Health Network shares excellence across a large number of inter-connected Communities of Practice, not only supporting community engagement but also research uptake (ARCH hub), Global Health Bioethics, social science and support for field workers (CONNECT) among many other areas. We convene a variety of professionals including researchers, community organisations, NGOs, industry, policymakers and practitioners from around the world. We hope our approach will support collaboration, discussion and knowledge sharing between those working in community engagement and across other disciplines at PlasticsFuture 2023 

Authors: Nicola Hay1
1. School of Art Design and Performance, University of Portsmouth

The art project "Seeing is Believing" visually represents ecosystem threats in an interactive manner to inspire change. It highlights the interconnections between nature, the environment, and human behavior through multidisciplinary, interactive, and immersive approaches, including extended reality. This project allows individuals to experience the effects of human behavior on the ecosystems of human and non-human animals.

Immersive experiences using digital media, storytelling, and illustration, along with extended reality, help audiences understand the consequences, and through collaborations with Revolution Plastics, Seeing is Believing aims to initiate meaningful conversations, foster allyship, and inspire tangible actions for a sustainable and environmentally conscious society.

Title: Terrestrial Plastic Pollution and its Threat to Livestock and Livelihoods
Authors: Dr Leanne Proops1, Dr Emily Haddy1, Dr Cressida Bowyer1
1. University of Portsmouth
Biography: Dr Leanne Proops is a psychologist and Reader in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, currently Associate Head for Research and Innovation in the Psychology Department at Portsmouth. Prior to joining Portsmouth, they held postdoc positions at Sussex University and The University of Tokyo, completed a DPhil in Psychology (Social Cognition in Horses) at Sussex University, an MSc (dist.) in Animal Behaviour at Exeter University and a BSc (1st) in Experimental Psychology at Sussex.
Dr Proops is an expert in equid (donkey, horse, mule) behaviour and welfare. In particular, Dr Proops has expertise in working equid welfare in low-middle income countries. They have also published work identifying the risk factors of poor welfare in captive ungulates (hoofed animals). Their work combines methods from animal behaviour, human psychology and human behaviour change, adopting a One Welfare approach that recognises the interconnectedness of animal, human and environmental welfare.

The effects of plastic pollution on marine environments and wildlife are widely acknowledged. Yet the effects on terrestrial animals are understudied and equally concerning. In many countries livestock and working animals graze open waste sites, consuming macroplastics that affect health and can result in death - in turn affecting owner prosperity. Even if livestock appear unharmed, meat and milk often contain microplastics that may affect human health. It is therefore important to assess the risks of plastic pollution for domestic species and to devise initiatives to reduce plastic ingestion by these species.

Lamu Island, Kenya, is a place where the links between plastic pollution, animal welfare and human wellbeing are overt and problematic. Subsistence livestock farming is common and many islanders rely on working donkeys for their transport and livelihoods. Despite there being a ban on free roaming donkeys on the island, most working donkeys and livestock roam freely, regularly feeding on litter or at large unmanaged waste sites as owners struggle to provide enough feed for their animals. Due to anatomical and dietary differences, it is likely that the threat of serious health consequences from plastic ingestion is higher for donkeys than cattle, but this has yet to be systematically explored. In this preliminary study, we assess the foraging behaviour and faecal samples of donkeys and cattle on Lamu in order to determine the levels of plastic ingestion. We will also survey local residents and animal owners regarding their attitudes to plastic pollution and its impacts on livestock and livelihoods on Lamu. Our findings will provide an assessment of the relative risks of plastic ingestion for two domestic species of economic value and will identify the opportunities and barriers to reducing the harm of plastic pollution in this community. This information can then be used to devise research-informed and community-led initiatives to address this complex and often neglected problem