More sustainable plastics are within our grasp, but more research is needed - report

03 June 2020

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The worst environmental impacts of plastics are a common sight in the news or on social media – but plastics also fulfil vital roles in society, and in some cases can even be a more sustainable option compared to alternatives.

However more research is urgently needed in order to make them fit for the future, and in a new report researchers set out four major research challenges facing their field.

The report, 'Science to enable sustainable plastics' summarises discussions from the Chemical Sciences and Society Summit (CS3) that took place in November 2019, and at which Professor Charlotte Williams, a lead researcher on the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Plastics, chaired a group of researchers, representatives of learned societies, and funders from China, Germany, Japan and the UK.

Over the course of the three day summit, the group developed a plan for how to create a circular economy for plastics, preserving the crucial functions they serve in society while introducing much better recyclability and reusability into their design.

The report identifies a series of recommendations for areas of research in need of development:

  • Understand the impacts of plastics throughout their life cycles.
  • Develop new sustainable plastics.
  • Closed loop plastics recycling.
  • Understand and control plastic degradation.

To find out more, read the full report here.

Watch the Royal Society of Chemistry's video below to see Professor Williams outlining how chemistry can help to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.