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The Challenge

Plastic waste is one of the world’s biggest problems. It takes about 400 years for a polyethylene bag to degrade in a landfill site. The persistence of plastic waste in the environment, and the reliance of fossil derived polymers for their creation, are unsustainable. Yet our current reliance on the utility of plastics makes this a significant challenge in terms of requiring both scientific breakthroughs in materials and chemical engineering, and the change in our behaviour that is necessary in order to move beyond single use disposable plastics.

The so-called “Circular Economy” represents a more sustainable model to the traditional linear economy. A linear model follows the path of make, use and then dispose. In a circular economy, we keep resources in use for as long as possible, get the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their service life.

The unique characteristics of plastics enable them to play a major role on the road to a more sustainable and resource efficient future. Lightweight, versatile and durable plastics can help save key resources such as energy and water. In addition, plastics applications in packaging can help reduce food waste. However, to improve the circularity of plastics, it is essential to make sure that more and more plastic waste is recovered and doesn’t end up in landfill or elsewhere in the environment.

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