Plastic has become a malevolent symbol of our wasteful society. It’s also one of the most successful materials ever invented: it’s cheap, durable, flexible, waterproof, versatile, lightweight, protective and hygienic.
During the coronavirus pandemic, plastic visors, goggles, gloves and aprons have been fundamental for protecting healthcare workers from the virus. But what about the effects on the environment of throwing away huge numbers of single-use medical protection equipment? How are we to balance our need for plastic with protecting the environment?
Delayed as a result of the pandemic, the film is being released now because it considers how society might ‘reset the clock’ when it comes to living better with a vital material. We hear how Cambridge University's Cambridge Creative Circular Plastics Centre (CirPlas) aims to eliminate plastic waste by combining blue-sky thinking with practical measures – from turning waste plastic into hydrogen fuel, to manufacturing more sustainable materials, to driving innovations in plastic recycling in a circular economy.
“As a chemist I look at plastic and I see an extremely useful material that is rich in chemicals and energy – a material that shouldn’t end up in landfills and pollute the environment,” says Professor Erwin Reisner, who leads CirPlas, funded by UK Research and Innovation. “Plastic is an example of how we must find ways to use resources without irreversibly changing the planet for future generations.”