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Evidence not idealism on the global plastics crisis

Credit: James Wakibia

Revolution Plastics Institute

4 min read Partner content

The University of Portsmouth is helping to produce policies and solutions that tackle plastic pollution around the world.

Our next government will be faced with many seemingly impossible challenges. Amongst them is plastic pollution, dealing with the impact at home and abroad of an ever-growing deluge of plastic waste and microplastics in the environment. The resulting mess damages ecosystems, impacting human and animal health and contributes to climate change. As the world wakes up to this man-made catastrophe, the UK Government will be tasked with adopting and implementing a new Global Plastics Treaty to end plastic pollution. 

Experts at the University of Portsmouth are playing a key role in generating evidence to inform the new Global Plastics Treaty and its subsequent implementation. As the scale of the plastics crisis became clear, the University created the Revolution Plastics initiative three years ago, and in 2021 launched the Global Plastics Policy Centre to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow. This year the University announces the formation of an Institute - a world leading centre of excellence for tackling plastic pollution through interdisciplinary research focused on developing innovative policies and solutions.

The urgent challenge of plastic pollution is being tackled head on by a dedicated team of researchers based in Portsmouth but working around the planet, including in the global south. Already, they have developed a plastic eating enzyme, an exciting technology that enables the circular recycling of plastics. The new Institute will undertake novel science around plastics, including microplastics in the food chain, domestic microplastics, medical plastics, reuse systems, alternative packaging, and plastics policy. 

Analysis of existing plastics policy is key to developing effective solutions. The Global Plastics Policy Centre at the University of Portsmouth has fast become a valuable resource, with researchers advising UNEP, World Bank, World Economic Forum and Defra on options for a more sustainable plastics economy. Through evidence-based analysis and original science to evaluate plastics policy performance, they are able to offer powerful insight and expertise in a fast-developing response to a global crisis.

Professor Steve FletcherProfessor Steve Fletcher, Director of the Global Plastics Policy Centre at the University of Portsmouth, says: “Propelled by a need for global radical change, our team at the University of Portsmouth is now ready to go further and faster. From our base on the South Coast of England, we are already uniquely positioned as global research and innovation leaders. We are deeply embedded in the UK and international policy landscape with an understanding of the full plastics lifecycle and a focus on holistic and systemic solutions.”

“Our new Institute seeks to urgently transform our understanding of the plastics crisis through inclusive solutions-focused research and innovation to support the transition to a sustainable plastics future.”

Mission-driven research in some of the worst affected areas on earth is already delivering results. The new Institute will strengthen its interdisciplinary approach to deliver a certainty of direction, allowing policymakers to make lasting positive impacts across the globe.

Commenting, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: “As the MP for a coastal city ensuring action on the impact of plastic pollution on our seas and marine life is a priority of mine. 

“It’s therefore fantastic to have world-leading researchers on our doorstep at The University of Portsmouth working to understand the scale and challenge of the global plastic crisis and solutions needed for a sustainable future.”

Revolution Plastics has received recognition for the crucial role it is taking in the global battle against plastic pollution. The initiative has just been shortlisted for a significant new award - Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Leadership - at the 2023 Times Higher Education Awards.

If you’d like to hear more about the research being done at the University of Portsmouth - please contact steve.fletcher@port.ac.uk.

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