Making Plastics Fantastic (again)!

Making Plastics Fantastic (again)!

“Perhaps the policies and the thinking in the public about what [plastics] we need to minimise is missing the point. We use plastics in many more places than just those few single use items.”

Plastics are one of the defining materials of our age and it would be hard to imagine modern living without them. However, the insatiable growth in their use together with the problems of disposal have made the “plastics” word awkward to bring up in polite society.

In this talk, Dr Jon Cullen and Prof James Elliott outline their plan to rehabilitate the reputation of plastics, and address some of the major problems related to their production and recovery after use. Jon starts by introducing the issue in global petrochemical supply chain for fossil-derived plastics and mapping of their flow through the economy, and James describes our new project for making Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging from Plants which aims to supplant the widespread use of fossil-derived plastics with materials made from naturally derived sources, such as wood (cellulose) and plants (sugars). These materials will degrade more easily in the natural environment, and result in no additional carbon being returned to the biosphere. By assessing the impact of switching to cellulose and plant-derived sugars, and making better use of waste products from food and forestry industries, we will explore the trade-offs between the benefits of plastic packaging and the impacts of its production and disposal.

Watch the talk from Dr Jon Cullen and Prof James Elliott as part of the Fresh Thinking At Fitz series on YouTube.