Facing the global plastics challenge
Sustainability and the environment
We use plastic in almost every area of our lives – as packaging, in electronics, medical equipment and building materials. Plastic is inexpensive and easy to make. It’s unmatched in its cost-effective durability and resistance to degradation – and production continues to grow.
But the attractive durability of plastic has created a global crisis. It takes more than 400 years to break down, and around 8 million tons of it end up in our oceans each year. Half of all plastic becomes waste within a year of being made, yet most isn’t recycled. Our planet is drowning in plastic. This has far-reaching consequences for the environment and our health. Something has to be done.
We're leading research in partnership with business, government and academia to understand the impact of plastic on our environment and develop solutions to tackle it.
We've recently been awarded £5.8 million in funding from the Research England Expanding Excellence Fund. Coupled with significant investment by the University, this major funding will speed up our progress towards finding a solution to one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges – plastic waste.
Our mission is to address the plastic crisis
We want to address the growing plastic crisis. We work with researchers from across the globe, and in multiple disciplines, to lead projects in areas such as molecular biology, aquatic science, engineering and advanced materials.
We’ve engineered an enzyme that can digest some of the most commonly polluting plastics. We've looked at how packaging is developed by food and drink suppliers. We've probed recycled plastics to develop sustainable composites. And we've studied the effects of microplastics in water.
Our findings guide industry, inform policy makers, inspire initiatives and raise awareness. And we’re educating others on the impact of plastic on the environment.
Solving the plastic problem requires an international effort. We bring together plastic producers and packaging manufacturers, consumer goods companies and retailers, along with the recycling sector, community groups, NGOs, government agencies and local authorities.
There is strength in our partnerships. We value our partners in our research and innovation to create a safe and sustainable future.
Our partners include:
- Diamond Light Source
- Glaxo Smith Klein
- Kier Construction
- Highways England
- Southern Water
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
- National Institute for Agronomic Researchers (INRA)
- Université Bretagne Sud France
- University of Cambridge
- University of South Florida
- University of Campinas
- Aalborg University
- University Munich
- Capturing our coast
- Marine Stewardship Council
- The Wildlife Trust
- Surfers Against Sewage
Our research in the news
Explore some of the news highlights of our plastics research.
- Portsmouth scientists awarded £5.8 million to help find new ways to recycle plastic waste
- New ‘promiscuous’ enzyme helps turn plant waste into sustainable products
- See Bin, Sea Change to combat marine plastic pollution
- The spread of airborne plastics
- Engineering a plastic-eating enzyme
- Become a seaside scientist by joining the Big Microplastic Survey