University launches plastic revolution to tackle global pollution crisis

Portsmouth sculpture by Pete Codling filled with plastic bottles

Over 285 people joined the community launch of the University's Revolution Plastics initiative.

  • 03 December 2020
  • 5 min read

The Portsmouth community came together last week to find out how the global plastic crisis affects them and our city at a free online event as part of the University of Portsmouth’s Revolution Plastics initiative.

 

We use plastic in almost every area of our lives – as packaging, in electronics, clothing and building materials. But half of all plastic becomes waste within a year of being made. Most isn’t recycled, and around eleven million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year.

 

Over 285 people joined the online event, on Thursday 26 November, to hear from the University, Portsmouth City Council and other organisations about what they’re doing to tackle the problems associated with plastic and to find out what we can all do to make a difference in the city.
Revolution Plastics: Creating a sustainable future for Portsmouth
Find out how the global plastic crisis affects you and the steps the University of Portsmouth and the local community are taking to tackle the issue.

The event marked the community launch of Revolution Plastics, which is assembling scientists, businesses, campaigners and citizens to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastic.

At the event, Professor Steve Fletcher, the University’s Director of the Sustainability and the Environment research theme, introduced Revolution Plastics and our progress so far. This included an update on how the University’s research is addressing problems associated with plastic - from engineering plastic-dissolving enzymes, making fashion more sustainable and studying how microplastics affect our oceans, economy and the air we breathe.

Professor Fletcher says if the Portsmouth community can revolutionise the use of plastics as part of a larger sustainability platform, then any community in the world can. “We see this as a pilot programme for the planet … an incubator for similar programmes in other cities, communities and countries,” he says.
 
Professor Fletcher adds: “An extensive survey of Portsmouth residents found most residents are acutely aware of plastic pollution, along with climate change and energy issues. The survey showed most people are keen to reduce plastic waste, but they require guidance, support and, critically, assurance they will not be the ones bearing the cost.“
 
There’s also a rising level of environmental awareness through local organisations and groups advocating sustainability, conservation and plastic waste reduction. The University of Portsmouth intends to support the community foundation by drawing on its leading research and collaborations with global organisations, including the United Nations.

If the Portsmouth community can revolutionise the use of plastics as part of a larger sustainability platform, then any community in the world can. We see this as a pilot programme for the planet… an incubator for similar programmes in other cities, communities and countries

Professor Steve Fletcher, Director of the Sustainability and the Environment research theme

A panel of experienced guests then took answers from the audience, exploring the ways that we can work together to create a more sustainable future. This included: 

  • Councillor Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change at Portsmouth City Council; who gave an update on the steps the Council is taking to improve recycling rates in the city.

  • Gemma Lacey, Director of Sustainability and Communications at Southern Co-op, explained how plastic packaging and recyclability is being considered in their branded products.

  • Hannah Harrison, Director of Sustainability at ‎WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising and communications companies, explained how there is growing traction among the world’s biggest brands to tackle environmental issues, particularly plastics and climate change.

  • Dr Fay Couceiro, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, explained her research into the impacts on microplastics on the environment and human health. And shared some tips on how to minimise their impact. 

  • Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, described the important role the University can play in educating others about plastics and other environmental sustainability issues, and exchanging knowledge with others both locally and globally.

  • Louis Capitanchik, University of Portsmouth alumnus and co-founder of Jetsam Tech, a Portsmouth-based environmental technology company, explained how the Jetsam app allows anyone to contribute to mapping plastic pollution in Portsmouth.

  • Edward Walls, Academic Representation Officer at the University of Portsmouth Students’ Union outlined student attitudes to sustainability and how recycling could be improved in Portsmouth’s student accommodation.

Over 100 questions were submitted, demonstrating a high level of interest among the local community for tackling the plastics crisis. Not all questions could be answered in the time available, so we’re planning more community events to continue the discussion.

If you were unable to attend, you can watch the recorded webinar and get in touch with the Revolution Plastics team with any further questions.

 

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