Date & Time: 
Wednesday 17 October 2018

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Plastic waste is undoubtedly a global challenge.

Our love affair with plastic began with the widespread popularity of Bakelite wireless radios in the early 1900s.

Fast-forward another 100 years or so, and Leo Baekeland could never have foreseen the popularity, diversity or ubiquity of the material for which he coined the name ‘plastics’.

It’s widely acknowledged that plastic has now become a significant threat to our long-term ecological survival.

If you’ve ever seen that 1967 episode of Star Trek which cast James T. Kirk in “The Trouble with Tribbles”, we appear to face a similar problem with plastic – both terrestrial and marine.

One of the challenges of plastic is the huge variety of materials grouped under the plastic banner. There are hundreds if not thousands of different types of plastic, many with different physical properties.

But how to put genie back in the bottle?  One might argue that crude oil, the feedstock for most plastics, is in fact a natural product. However the way petroleum is subsequently refined into its many constituent chemical components is far from natural.

Despite being an offshoot of crude oil, plastic remains surprisingly cheap, incredibly durable, and almost infinitely adaptable to a mind-boggling smorgasbord of containers, wrappers, bottles, ties, toggles and retail tack – a marketer’s dream come true.

In a global economy addicted to growth, the cheapest, most effective way to deliver products to consumers invariably involves some aspect of plastic packaging.

Invest in a set of teaspoons and they’ll be wrapped (individually) in plastic. Treat yourself to a packet of chewing gum, and you’ll be obliged to navigate your way through a tough outer layer of tamper-proof plastic.

Plastic is literally everywhere – and that’s becoming a BIG problem because we don't have a sophisticated way of dealing with the material on a global scale.

Is recycling the answer? Should we ban certain types of plastic? Should we re-think the chemistry? What is the role of government? Can we encourage consumers to alter their behaviour around plastics? Is plastic really a consumer problem? What about producers? What responsibility do manufacturers have for products once they leave their factories?

We’ll never cover all the issues, but we might start a conversation that sends ripples across the research community.

Finding effective, long-lasting solutions to the complex and growing problem of plastic waste will require a sophisticated and coordinated approach from the research community.

You’re invited to attend the UQ Global Change Institute’s inaugural plastic waste response forum on Wednesday, 17 October 2018.

Draft Program (subject to change)

Plastic in peril: from a global perspective to a Flagship focus
Dr Anya Phelan, Director Global Change Scholars Program, Research Fellow, UQ Business School

Waste not, want not – A Brisbane City Council overview of its waste recycling program.
Christine Blanchard, Waste Minimisation Manager, Brisbane City Council


Greening Australia without plastic
Jelenko Dragisic, General Manager Greening Australia Qld

Turning seafood waste into biodegradable plastic packaging
Michelle Demers, co- founder Carapac (Michelle lives in Sydney so we’ve asked her to attend remotely)

How the University of Queensland is responding to the challenge of plastic waste
Christine McCallum, UQ Sustainability Office

* Precious Plastic Brisbane will also host a display in the GCI Atrium.

L3, UQ Global Change Institute (20), The University of Qld (St Lucia)
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