Reuse or Refuse: the Facts on Single-Use Plastics

Posted by QED at 11:00am on September 28th 2018
Plastic waste on the beach

Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, with an estimated 50% being used once and thrown away. Eight million tons of waste plastic ends up in our oceans each year, where it breaks down into ever-smaller pieces before being ingested by wildlife. And that’s to say nothing of the millions of tons of plastic waste going into landfill, which will take hundreds of years to degrade.

What are the risks posed by plastic waste in our oceans? Are single-use plastic straws merely a convenient media scapegoat, or will eliminating them really help? What practical steps can people take to reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce? Our panel to discuss these issues at QED will be:

  • Dr Sarah Clement is an Environmental Scientist whose research focuses on the role of policy and decision making to solve environmental problems. She lectures in Environmental Management at the University of Liverpool. She has worked as an environmental consultant, researcher, and environmental policy advisor for sixteen years in the UK, USA, and Australia. She is also a director of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and recently appeared on the Skeptics with a K podcast.

  • Dr Helen Czerski is a physicist and oceanographer who has worked on several projects for TV and radio, including the documentary Operation Iceberg and Dara Ó Briain’s Science Club. She is a accomplished science communicator, and also serves as Honorary President of Winchester Skeptics.

  • Dr Matt Winning is both an environmental economist, in the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London, and a stand-up comedian. His research focuses on topics such as climate change, energy transitions and the circular economy, and his 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show, the “funny yet educational” Climate Strange, was critically acclaimed.

  • Nicola Throp is co-organiser of QED and has worked in the energy industry as an energy analyst for almost a decade, helping businesses understand carbon reporting mechanisms, manage Climate Change Agreements and implement energy consumption reduction measures.