Plastics: Problem Polymers or Sustainable Solutions?

Posted in: Community, Public engagement

The article below was written by Emma Daniels, Jack Payne and Ciarán Callaghan from Cohort '18 about their trip to the Bristol Against Plastics society.

The issues surrounding plastic pollution are all too prevalent in the today’s media and most people now know of the vast amounts of plastic pollution accumulating in the environment. One group who are very aware of these issues are the members of the Bristol society ‘Bristol Against Plastics’. This proactive society are on a mission to educate the community about the current problems surrounding plastic consumption and to help tackle these issues through environmental activism. In December, three members of Cohort ’18 visited the society to give a series of talks!

We each gave a presentation showcasing our research and how we are working towards more sustainable plastics as solutions to these problems. In particular, we wanted to highlight the benefits of plastic materials and that being totally ‘against’ plastics may not be the best solution. Up first was Jack who talked about “Closing the Loop of Plastic Recycling – Plastics for The Circular Economy”. Jack’s first MRes project is focused on the chemical recycling of PLA (Poly(Lactic Acid)) to produce valuable platform chemicals. This topic allowed him to highlight the economic and environmental benefits of plastics and introduce the idea of chemical recycling.

To continue the discussion of more sustainable plastics, Emma then talked about her work within the Buchard group towards “sweet plastics” – new polymers derived from sugars. A key message within this talk is that, in order to be successful replacements for current commodity plastics, any new, green alternatives must be able to compete in terms of properties and cost.

Last but not least, Ciarán took to the stage to discuss microbeads – a topic that has received a lot of publicity over the last few years. The main focus of Ciarán’s research within the BIOBEADS project is the design and manufacture of biodegradable naturally-derived materials, in particular the production of biodegradable microbeads from cellulose. This seemed to be a new concept to the audience which was very well received!

After the presentations, the floor was opened to questions from the society which enabled a very interesting Q&A discussion. It was refreshing to see so many people engaging with the research topics at the CSCT even though they didn’t necessarily have a chemistry background! Overall, we really enjoyed our evening with the society and thought the event was a real success! But don’t take our word for it! Here’s what the members of BAP had to say:

We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Against Plastics for organising the event and for being such welcoming hosts! We hope to work with you again in the near future!

Posted in: Community, Public engagement


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