New platform to tackle plastic waste gets political seal of approval
A view of Plastic bottle waste stuck at a filter made of wire mesh at Njoro River, Nakuru | Credit: James Wakibia
The University of Portsmouth’s Global Plastics Policy Centre online platform aims to equip policymakers and the public with the tools to prevent plastic pollution.
It is difficult to imagine a world without plastics. Whether we are at home, at work, or in a car we are surrounded by plastics. If we fall ill and go to hospital, the equipment that helps to make us better is likely to be made of plastic. When we received Covid jabs, they came from a plastic syringe held by a nurse wearing a plastic mask.
But this dependence on plastics comes at a significant cost to the environment. Half of all plastic becomes waste within a year of manufacture, and the vast majority is not recycled. 11 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year, and this is forecast to triple to 29 million tons by 2040. This damages natural habitats and makes the fight against climate change more difficult.
Around the world, policymakers are urgently developing strategies to find safer, more sustainable ways to manufacture, recycle, and dispose of plastics. However, the challenge they face is understanding what interventions work best.
Now, thanks to the launch of an important new policy platform, they will get a helping hand.
This month witnessed the unveiling of a new online portal developed by the University of Portsmouth’s Global Plastics Policy Centre. For the first time, this will provide independent, evidence-based advice on plastics policy.
Professor Steve Fletcher, from the University of Portsmouth is Director of the new Centre. He believes that recent moves toward a global agreement to end plastic pollution mean that better ways of sharing effective practice are essential.
“By the end of 2024, the text of a new agreement to end plastic pollution should have been developed,” he explains. “Through the Global Plastics Policy Centre, we can provide independent, evidence-based analysis and advice on plastics policy. We are now in a great position to feed our research into this ambitious process.”
The new online platform is already being heralded by MPs as a vital resource that will help promote more sustainable approaches in the plastics industry and support the wider fight against climate change.
Jo Churchill MP, the former Resources and Waste Minister, recently visited the University of Portsmouth to meet with key staff involved in the project. She explained to The House why she believes the Global Plastics Policy Centre’s new initiative represents an important step forward.
“The University of Portsmouth’s excellent work to find new ways to tackle plastic waste has the potential to make a real difference in the global fight against plastic pollution,” she tells us. “The UK is already leading the way by bringing in a new plastic packaging tax, with further plans for consistent recycling collections and a deposit return scheme for drinks containers. But we cannot address this issue alone. We need academia and industry to play their part too, and this new online platform will take us in the right direction.”
Liz Twist MP, who is the Vice-Chair of the APPG on Microplastics, shares Churchill’s view that the new online platform is a timely and potentially critical resource for policymakers.
Until now there has been no go-to source of independent evidence on the effectiveness of policies to prevent plastic pollution
“Plastic pollution is a huge factor in exacerbating the climate crisis and the work that the Global Plastics Policy Centre is seeking to carry out will be a great weapon in the fightback for our planet,” she tells The House. “A new ‘one-stop shop’ website that seeks to share knowledge and build progressive policy in the fight against climate change is exactly the kind of thing we need.”
Conservative MP, Sally-Ann Hart, who is the Chair of the APPG for the Ocean, is another who believes that the resources to support governments around the world in policymaking can play an important role in supporting efforts to tackle climate change.
“Reducing plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, waterways and rivers remain an issue of pressing global concern,” she explains. “It will require a concerted effort led by governments around the world to effectively tackle it.”
As the website launched, it already contained detailed analysis of over 100 plastic policies from around the world. These include national bans, the use of taxes, behaviour campaigns, waste management strategies, and business-led initiatives.
Every one of these approaches has been meticulously analysed to provide simple and clear guidance on what does, and does not, work. This guidance can then be accessed by policymakers seeking to find the most effective interventions to tackle plastic pollution.
“The Global Plastics Policy Centre online platform is the first of its kind and I believe it will generate real change,” Professor Fletcher explains. “Until now there has been no go-to source of independent evidence on the effectiveness of policies to prevent plastic pollution for policymakers or the public, nor a platform to share analyses or advice on plastic pollution policies. Given the urgency of tackling plastic pollution, the need to develop better policy to reduce plastic pollution is a priority.”
And the new online platform is not just a resource for policymakers. By providing independent and objective advice, the platform will also equip campaign groups and members of the public with the information that they need to hold legislators to account and demand more effective action.
The new Global Plastics Policy Centre online platform cannot address the global plastics crisis alone. However, what it will do is provide the information, advice, and evidence to help those who are seeking effective approaches to reduce plastic use and to develop a more sustainable planet. As an important global resource, it will also further cement the UK’s position as a leading voice in debates about reducing pollution and tackling climate change.
The University of Portsmouth is holding a PlasticsFuture Conference in November and one day will focus on plastic policy. Find out more here.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.