We're thrilled to welcome Dr Bronwyn Laycock to Powering the change to present an academic key note on the subject that seems to be everyone's lips: plastics.
Dr Bronwyn Laycock is a Senior Lecturer with the University of Queensland’s School of Chemical Engineering and the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation.
Plastics in the circular economy
Plastics are ubiquitous in our modern economy. They combine outstanding material properties with low cost and as a result their use has increased 20-fold in the last 50 years, with around 8,300 million metric tons of virgin plastic having been produced globally to date.
But the linear, take-make-dispose value chains of plastics bring with them significant economic and environmental drawbacks. As of 2015, it has recently been estimated that around 6,300 Mt of plastic waste was generated in the time that plastics have been in use, of which around 9% has been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. As a result, each year around $AUD 100-150 billion in plastic packaging material value is lost to the global economy.
With exponential growth in plastics production forecast, we need to assess ways in which we can use innovation, redesign and harmonisation to deliver a new plastics value chain based on circular economy principles.