Prof Richard Thompson: Plastic debris is widely distributed at the sea surface, on the sea bed and on shorelines. Nearly 700 species are known to encounter marine litter, with many reports of physical harm resulting from entanglement in and ingestion of plastic.
At the same time it is very clear that plastic items bring many societal benefits. Can these benefits be achieved without emissions of waste to the environment? Progress requires systemic changes in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic. Key solutions to two major environmental problems, our non-sustainable use of fossil carbon (to produce plastics) and the accumulation waste, lie in reducing useage and recycling end-of-life plastics into new products.
Richard Thompson OBE FRS, is Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the Marine Institute, University of Plymouth.
He is a Marine Biologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on plastic pollution. In 2004, he published the first paper describing the long-term accumulation of microscopic fragments of plastic in the environment, naming them ‘microplastics’. He and his team have been at the forefront of microplastics research and have shown their global distribution, the potential for transfer from the gut to the circulatory system, and their role in the transport of chemical contaminants. This pioneering early work was pivotal in recognition of microplastic contamination in policy, such as Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Richard has an extensive track record of collaboration across the disciplines, with an emphasis on identifying ways to use plastics more sustainably. His recent work has guided policy on the release of microplastics from cosmetic products and textiles.
His team at the Marine Litter Research Unit won the NERC Impact Award (2018) and based on their work the University of Plymouth received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2020.
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This talk has been organised in conjunction with the Sid Vale Association.