It was not until 2016 that I really became aware of the serious issues in relation to global plastic pollution although my life from 1970 onwards had been very polymer and plastic focused and I worked for most of that time in a top Department of Chemical Engineering. In hindsight my only excuse for not having appreciated the extent of global plastic pollution was that I had been very focused on my specific research and occupied with teaching that I hadn’t stepped back to see the growing development of plastic cancer.
Since 2016 I have given talks on plastic pollution and they are reproduced below. I have used some of the same slides in a number of the talks, but hopefully you will be able to see the shift in emphasis as my own understanding and the understanding of others has developed over the period.
This First Presentation is on the “Good, Bad and Ugly” aspects of plastics. The talk was given to a local community group in Kingsbridge Devon in 2016 and the heated debate that followed the talk concerning plastic debris on beaches and poor plastic recycling facilities had a major effect on my own thinking.
The Second Presentation “The Beauty and Nightmare of Plastics” was given at Bath University in March 2019 and even since then matters have moved on. Inappropriate plastics recycling and abuses relating to recycled plastics being dumped in overseas countries is emerging and the reuse of plastics, both multi use and single use, is now an open and widely debated subject. Legislation whether UK, European or Global to curb excess plastic use and waste is now clearly needed.
The Third Presentation on “Helping to make the world a better place using plastics” was given in November 2019 at Fribourg Switzerland as part of a Plastics Innovation Competence Centre (PICC) annual meeting. The meeting covered various aspects of “The circular economy” for plastics and I came away from the meeting with the conclusion that global manufacturers of plastic, such as BASF, Ineos, Dow, should (be forced?) to build Chemical Recycling units adjacent to their polymerization reactors and use feedstock from the Chemical recycling unit for the polymerisation of “new” plastic. In this way a genuine circular use of plastic can be achieved in a similar way to the steel, glass and paper industry that use significant recycled material for their new material.
The Fourth Presentation is another “The Beauty and Nightmare of Plastics” however in this presentation the emphasis is on “Plastic recovery and Plastic disposal”. There is now significant awareness of plastic pollution and a real desire by local residents to “do the right thing” in relation to plastic recovery and disposal, however presently there is little National clarity on how this can be done.