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Catherine Weetman 00:56
It’s episode 107! Hey, welcome back, and as always, thanks for listening. Plastic is embedded in pretty much every part of our lives. The plastics industry promotes it as the perfect material for 1000s of products being cheap, lightweight, clean and convenient. But is that really true? And are there better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity. I’ve been a longtime admirer of Sian Sutherland and her work. Sian co- founded A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crises. She also co founded Plastic Free, the first materials and systems solution platform empowering global creatives to design waste out at source. Sian is passionate about igniting social change, and creating brands and businesses with soul. And she’s a serial entrepreneur with a varied background across industries in 2023, at the United Nations plastic treaty negotiations, in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, a plastic planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing the experts scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on our human health.
Sian’s won many awards, including female marketer of the year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and British inventor of the year. She’s passionately pro business and solutions focused and believes the plastic crisis gives us all a way in to changing both materials and systems to create a different future for the next generations. I particularly like the courageous way that Sian helps us unpack the key issues around plastics, and is actively creating and powering up a range of solutions to go plastic free, as Sian says, By “fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else.
I felt this was a really rich conversation. Sian and A Plastic Planet are involved in so many initiatives. And I didn’t want you to miss out on any of Sean’s insights and ideas. So I’ve split the conversation into two episodes. In this first episode, we talk about plastic free.com. A new systems and solutions platform for creatives, including designers, technologists, marketers and strategists. That platform has 1000s of case studies and proof points for plastic free solutions. Sian tells us about one of her favourite plastic free products, the degenerative sneaker and about some exciting developments from a company called natural fibre welding.
We touch on greenwash and how policies are evolving to tackle that, and Sian tells us why she thinks recyclable. A word that comes up a lot in circular solutions should instead be banned. We discuss some of the issues with vegan leathers and move on to discuss why chemistry is such an important subject. Sian explains why understanding chemistry is now essential for anyone working in design and materials technology. And we unpack a few of the issues around plastic and its impact on our health, including Sian’s reflections on a recent event at the European Parliament, where scientists highlighted the connection between plastics and a wide range of diseases, autoimmune conditions, autism and other Cognitive mental spectrum disorders.
In part two, we discuss neuro marketing, some of the uses of microbeads and capsules that you might not know about, and why systems change is even more important than changing the materials. Sian tells us about the work of the reusable packaging coalition, founded by another podcast guest, Jo Chidley. We discuss why big companies are finding it so difficult to break away from last century systems take make use and dispose and how those companies risk becoming irrelevant, following in the footsteps of Kodak disrupted by better solutions. And the last part of that second episode is my usual roundup of what I took away from the wide ranging and inspiring conversation with Sian . Look out for part two in Episode 108, which will go out on Sunday, the second of July. Now, let’s meet Sian Sutherland, founder of A Plastic Planet and Plasticfree.com.
Sian, welcome to the circular economy podcast. And thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today. I’m really interested to unpack some of the subjects I know we’re going to cover. Can we start by asking you what’s the big idea that’s driving you forward at A Plastic Planet?
Sian Sutherland 06:28
Thank you, Catherine. It’s such a pleasure to be with you on your podcast. So the big idea for a plastic planet. Probably the most exciting thing for me right now. As you know, my background is that of an entrepreneur. And as an entrepreneur, I know that where there is change, there is opportunity. And so the the big idea driving me forward is what’s next. Plastic, obviously, everything we look at at a plastic planet is through this extraordinary plastic lens. Because I think it is such an amazing gateway to so many other things. If we fix the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else. And for me, plastic is last century’s material. But I find it really exciting now and what are the materials and the systems of the future going to be? And how can they settle tap on the shoulder? That plus the plastic process has given us this little this gift, really this fossil fuel descent defibrillator to wake us all up to the fact that we are living in a way that is really not in harmony with the wonderful planet that we live on. So we’ve been given this tap on the shoulder to say, this is wrong, and you can change. And the plastic gateway is that is that vehicle for us to change. So I’m excited about what are those systems are going to look like how we’re going to live in a different way? How are we going to take make, never throw away? How are those things going to manifest in the future? Because I absolutely believe we will not only live more in harmony with nature, I think we’ll be happier, I think will be more fulfilled. So for me the biggest project is what’s next. And how we are bringing what’s next to people is through the launch of our solutions, our materials and systems solutions platform, which is hosted on plastic free.com. So that’s probably the thing that is making me very excited to get up every morning right now.
Catherine Weetman 08:30
Yeah, and I’ve shared that link already with a few people. And we’ll put the link to that in the show notes. But tell us more about that that toolkit that a plastic planet is putting together
Sian Sutherland 08:41
over the last seven years, you know, my background is a massive plastic centre. So then my most recent business, I co founded and ran a skincare brand. So can you imagine how many millions of plastic bottles jars I have pumped out into the environment personally. So this is no plastic saintess sitting in front of you, Catherine, this is somebody who has been a massive part of the problem. Who shameful to say now it was not on my list. What happens to those bottles and jars after they’ve been used by our customers? My focus really was so much more on how do we develop new markets, what’s our new products? How do we compete as a small fledgling, fledgling brand creating a new category called pregnancy skincare in this massively hyper competitive market of personal care. So my focus was on that rather than sustainability. But now eight, nine years is a long time in plastic awareness, I think for all of us, particularly for me, and I was asked to consult on the launch of a film called a plastic ocean. So 2016 I had my own rapid epiphany. And we wondered at that time, when we were hosting one of the screenings of a planet plastic ocean. Is there a way to create a different kind of organisation that isn’t Not your typical charity or NGO that doesn’t get involved in beach cleans or talking about recycling, but instead works with industry on solutions. And then also works with governments on how can we put pressure on industry by creating this level playing field, which is what fiscal policy, which is what the laws, bans, actually do – they help industry change, they make it a half do not a nice to. So we wondered, could we create a different kind of business that was pro business, not anti business that was solutionist, that didn’t talk about the problem that only talked about the solutions, what’s next in the future. And over the course of the last seven years of running a plastic planet, we have been, become acutely aware of this knowledge gap. Because if you think Catherine, every single thing on the planet, the room, you’re sitting in what you and I are wearing, you know, your podcast equipment, the street that we live in, everything is designed. Even if it’s a bad design, it’s have some element of creative process around it, there are 160 million creatives globally. And I would say even more than that, because if you’re an entrepreneur, if you are a brand owner of any any kind, you are a creative because you are making something happen out of nothing. So you’ve got this massive community of creatives. And they are not connected to the plastic free materials makers, the systems changes of the world, this amazing growing new market of opportunity. So we wanted to create a platform that connects those 160 million creatives with the solutions of the future in a way that is highly visual, beautifully designed. So you know, their their kind of aesthetic, because obviously we’re appealing to the most discerning audience in the world. If it doesn’t look amazing. If it doesn’t look exciting it is if it isn’t painting a picture of a future that we all want to accelerate towards and be part of, we’re going to lose them. So we built this platform, which sits on plastic free.com which has hundreds of new materials, existing materials 1000s of case studies, proof points editorial. It is backed by an extraordinary creative and Science Council of some of the luminaries really, that we’re incredibly proud every single person we’ve asked to say yes to sitting on our on our plastic free Council, people like Thomas Heatherwick and Tom Dixon, so David Chipperfield, the amazing architect, people like Terry Collins, amazing professor of green chemistry and safe chemicals in Carnegie Mellon. So extraordinary people, Professor Hugh Montgomery, head of ICU at UCL in London. So really amazing. I think we now have 50, strong people on that council. So it’s, it’s a platform that we want to be a kind of empowering ignition tool for everyone in the creative industry. It is updated six times a day, because this world is happening so fast, we are painting a picture of the future and the future is manifesting, and changing every single day, the opportunities of what we can go from and to. And that’s really exciting. So we have an on our radar section that is updated six times a day so that we make the creative the smartest person in the room. Because by doing that, we feel we will make them confident, empowered, educated and inspired, that they can push back against their inevitable creative breed that will hit their their desk right now today, that will say just make it out of a green thing like a bioplastic, or a recycled polymer. Whether it’s a garment or a building or a piece of packaging, we’re still looking at the wrong use of the wrong material. So if we can connect them with future materials that fit into a fully circular system, I believe we can start to make extraordinary change.
Catherine Weetman 14:08
That sounds amazing. So to bring that to life a little bit more, could you unpack a couple of examples of something that would fit into the criteria of future fit solutions. And then something that you might see more as, you know, a green a green wash or, you know, it solves one problem but creates several more?
Sian Sutherland 14:29
Yes. A perfect example for me would be a new trainer that was launched in the US hopefully it will come to UK in Europe soon. And it’s called the Degenerate. And the Degenerate is has been created by a new company called Unless Collective. It is founded by a guy called Eric Liedtke. And to put that in context, he was the chief creative officer of Adidas. So he’s an icon really in the world of sneakers, and sportswear. which obviously is a market that is massively dependent on plastic. And he decided that he wanted to be part of the different kinds of future. And he has created this, this trainer this sneaker called the Degenerate, which is the first trainer that is made entirely of nutrient based materials, you can grind this trailer up, and you can put it straight into the soil. It doesn’t need some kind of industrial composting, fanciful, end of life system that doesn’t actually exist at scale, you can grind it out because it is not only plastic free from end to end, the soul, the foam inside the leather, the plant based leather, but it uses the fabric that it uses the laces, even the little eyes on the laces, every single part of it is made out of nutrient based materials, entirely plastic free and entirely toxin free. So that for me is an example of true circularity. It is the materials come from a company called Natural Fibre Welding, NFW. And they are the inventors for me, of an entire new system of how we take from nature. We we make things from the nutrients that we take from nature, we bake them more than shape them into something that is useful for us. But fundamentally, we don’t bake break the backbone of the chemical structure of those nutrients, so that they can go back to nature as nutrients, and NFW are now making many many things their their plant leather alternative is the first one that’s available at scale out there. That is entirely plastic and toxin free. The interior, the leather interiors of BMW cars are going to be made using this material. So it’s out there in the market already scaling up. They’re working with Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss on their their re recycled cotton and other fibre materials, where they’re creating such high performance materials that it can compete with polyester. Because often when you recycled cotton, you know the fibres get shorter and shorter and therefore the quality deteriorates, then they have an entirely new process. So there is no deterioration. In fact, you enhance the performance. So this company NFW, I think are they are the pioneers of this new system. Because imagine when we talk about circularity, we think we’ve invented this new thing called the circular economy. I’m sorry, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, God bless them, they have not invented something called the circular economy. Nature has always been circular. There is no waste in nature, everything becomes the nutrient for the next stage of growth. And what NFW are doing is pioneering this new thought process in how we take, we borrow from nature. And then we give it back in a way that it can become the nutrient for the next stage of growth. Because what we do all the time as mankind, we take things from nature that are entirely nutrient based leather is a great example, we take leather, its skin doesn’t get get more natural than that. It is designed to go back to nature as a nutrient for the next stage of growth. But what did we do to it, we tan it we add heavy chemicals, all the dyes or you know the very, very toxic process in the whole tanning process of leather, so that it cannot go back to nature as a nutrient. Nature is completely binary. People talk at all there’s a grey area in the middle, there really isn’t with nature. It is either a food and nutrient or it is a toxin and a poison. It’s that it’s that binary, there is no grey area of less bad materials for nature. So I find it wonderful now that there are materials coming out and we need to really give these materials, the investment, the oxygen that they need to become the new normal of how we make things because this is nature’s cycle. And this is a true circularity that we need to get to totally in harmony, we just borrow from nature and we give it back in a way that is safe.
Catherine Weetman 19:10
So reciprocity, which is one of the you know, key principles in indigenous teachings, isn’t it is to kind of, you know, we should be giving back as much or as more as we’re taking. And I want to come back, I want to come back to nutrients. But first of all, to go back to the second one. Yeah, the second one. So something that you would perceive as you know, greenwash or a false solution, what, what kinds of things how would you help people avoid those missteps?
Sian Sutherland 19:41
Okay, and then I’d love to come back to the systems change. Why do we take less resources on the planet generally? So rewash I’m thrilled actually, particularly the EU, particularly France. Kudos for the French who are doing so much work now in this In this particular area, particularly on plastics and the whole world of single use, and this whole thing with the CMA now that companies are going to be held to account greenwash, and a couple of great examples of greenwashing to me are vegan leather. You know, if we talk about leather as as, as we just were, and the whole vegan leather movement, oh my Lord, save me, because vegan leather is plastic. And there is nothing circular about plastic. And much as Yes, wouldn’t it be great if we’re less dependent on animals for leather like materials, because that again, is a highly toxic industry, and anybody who wants to learn more about it, watch the film slay which is available to screen free on water bear amazing network, where you’ve got all these inspiring documentaries for watch the film slay and you’ll learn everything you ever want to know about leather. So I think plant based leathers we need to be very careful mycelium based leathers. You know, there is no mycelium leather that is simply grown out of mushrooms that is available at scale on the market yet everybody talks about mushroom leather like it’s, it’s the stable, these things are not and we need to be careful that we don’t go down the wrong road. And then the worst one for me, is the word recyclable. So when you’re looking at greenwash and if you are anybody out there in the world and making something, and you say it’s okay, because I’m using technically recyclable material, and you believe that that that deflects you from the responsibility of the fact is never going to be recycled. And plastic is obviously one of the key culprits in this where we recycle 9% globally. So when people say, you know, Coca Cola, and then 120 billion plastic bottles, say, but it’s made out of a recyclable material. It’s really not a problem that there is no infrastructure to collect it and recycling into something useful. That word recyclable should be banned from the English dictionary. Because it takes it gives you no responsibility for what happens for it. So recyclable as a word, I think, is a total of greenwash, ocean plastic, total greenwash, we should never ever honour it, who put on some kind of pedestal, something that should never exist. So I think anything that is made elevation plastic, we need to be very, very careful.
Catherine Weetman 22:29
And just to come back to those plant based leathers, I think one of the other issues I uncovered, and, you know, this, this is something that I had included in the circular economy handbook, and then a few years later, kind of found out more and wished I wished I hadn’t. But virtually all the plant based leathers are still using a fossil based chemical plastic, to give them the necessary structure to behave as a leather. It could be okay, as a plant based textile, but to have the strength and flexibility for footwear, then they’re adding petrochemical plastics. So again, it’s kind of you know, might be hidden in the small print somewhere on their website, but it’s certainly not in the, in the main stuff that that people pick up on. And I think that’s, you know, that’s one of the the big issues is, people don’t have time, you know, if if I can’t even find it when I’m actively looking for what’s this really made of, from a research point of view? Then how on earth is the average person just wanting to buy, you know, a pair of shoes or whatever? How are they going to find it?
Sian Sutherland 23:41
So made a really good point there. And why should it be their problem? Why is it their responsibility? Why is it down to us as the shopper to have to decipher all these crazy symbols on the back of everything, that half of them we know, are thin as a piece of paper, with very little truth behind them? So I think we are we were witnesses, a bonfire of certification schemes, because there are very few that actually mean anything now. It’s wrong that we should expect the shopper to have all of that responsibility, which is why I believe we need laws, we need government intervention here. Because it shouldn’t be legal. Now we know what we know. It shouldn’t be illegal to sell you the wrong thing.
Catherine Weetman 24:26
Yeah. And I think those recycling symbols are a case in point on the where, you know, in theory, this is recyclable, but whether whether a facility even exists in your country is a completely different question and isn’t addressed on on the pack. So let’s let’s come back to those nutrients because funnily enough, just before this call, I was doing something for IEMA and we were looking at putting some information out to our to our members and nutrients was the thing that I picked up to do an explainer for And in circular economy jargon terms, we talk about biological nutrients, things that were growing, were alive and can go back to nature, you know, can be a form of compost and decay and provide nutrients. And we also talk about what are called technical nutrients, which are nonliving things. So, metals, minerals, even possibly based materials, and they can be considered nutrients in circular economy language, because, in theory, they can be made back into the same product. So, is that something that that you kind of align with? Or do you have a different take on it?
Sian Sutherland 25:43
No, I completely concur with everything that you’ve said. And I think it’s a really great way of looking at it. And because many of those, you know, that the nonliving nutrients that you refer to, are essential for the structure or the living nutrients. So, I think I think we live in this fascinating world, where, certainly me personally, I’m waking up to the extraordinary wonder of chemistry. And one of the things that we talk to the creative audience about now is, it’s no longer acceptable to be ignorant about such things. So do not fear the science embrace the science, because the more you uncover, it is a little bit like when you first start drinking wine, and you learn a little bit about wine, and you realise, oh, my God, I’ve scratched the surface of this massive world of wine. And it’s so interesting and exciting, there’s so much to know. And chemistry, obviously, is 10 times bigger, infinitely bigger than that. Because everything, everything, everything comes down to chemicals. And the chemicals that we put out into the world, the chemicals that we use to make things and this is new. We now talk about green chemistry, we like to talk about safe chemistry, because it’s such it’s a it’s a green chemistry, I feel is going to be a buzzword, people jump on. Whereas I think safe chemistry is everything. It’s safe for every living thing on the net. In nature, it’s safe for nature itself, it’s safe for the soil, it’s there for the oceans, it’s safe for us. So I think safe chemistry and understanding what safe chemicals are is something that we all need to be much more cognizant of. Because it’s incredibly important, and we live a toxic lifestyle. We are the first generation that will die more from non communicable diseases than communicable diseases. And when we think about that, it’s such an extraordinary thought that we have everything we have, you know, the wonders of what technology has brought us the Industrial Revolution. And yet, we are seeing now a decline in longevity of the human race. And this is, you know, it’s happening very, very quickly. And obviously, you take COVID out of that. And it’s because we live a toxic lifestyles, our lifestyles are now killing us. And, and we know, We’re not naive, we’re very smart. And yet we continue to do it. And we continue to do it. Because we think we love the lives we have, and we don’t want to change. We love the convenience, that or loss of these, these chemical, you know, you look at plastic, plastic is not on the periodic table. It isn’t like aluminium or copper, or, you know, it’s not an element in that way. But it’s very easy, because it’s so omnipresent in our lives that we think plastic is the thing in itself. No plastic is a combination. It’s a mix of chemicals, many of them are toxic, many of them are on the European register of chemicals of extreme concern. And yet we know that we know that it’s everywhere, it’s in every glass of water that we drink it’s in it’s up to 23 times as much plastic now in soil as there is in our oceans. It’s in the deep ice of Antarctica, it’s in our bodies, it’s in placenta, it’s in our blood. And, and yet we don’t stop. And I find that fascinating that we know so much. And what will it take for us to recognise that we need to really, really be more cognizant of the toxic chemicals that we are pumping out into the world?
Catherine Weetman 29:16
I think there’s the two things I’d like to draw out of that. The first is perhaps more people’s perception of plastics, being you know, seeing them as something inert. So even when we learn about microplastics, we kind of just imagine that they’re perhaps inert particles. And yet, as you just mentioned, they’re all these toxic chemicals that have been used whether for dyeing or finishing or creating the plastic itself. And also I’ve been learning that plastics can pick up other chemicals when they’re in you know, the sewage the waterways, whatever. So it’s not just the the chemicals, toxic or other why’s that started off in the plastic packaging? It’s the things that they can attract and retain. Is that something? Are you finding people are becoming more aware of that?
Sian Sutherland 30:13
Yes. And we all need to wake up really to what we’re doing. And so yesterday, I mentioned that I was in Brussels, and I was in European Parliament buildings with MEPs, with health scientists, with members of industry, and with members of law. And it was the first time certainly in my experience, it’s the first time that we have policymakers, lawyers, people from industry, and most importantly, the health scientists together to talk about the impact of these toxic chemicals from plastic on human health. And when we look at what will be the tipping point of how do we change how do we stop what is predicted to be a trebling of plastic production by 2040? How do we stop plastic becoming the plan be the soft landing for the fossil fuel industry, I think the impact on human health, the irrefutable proof of this impact on human health is going to be that catalyst and that tipping point. Because with that, we have corporate risk. And as ever, through history with things like you know, round up, asbestos, obviously, tobacco, all of these things, it’s the impact on human health, that is the final reason to change. Because much is of course, we should care about the damage that we have caused the environment and many, many living other living things that are on our planet, we really care about ourselves, because we’re a selfish species. And when we realise the impact that is having, and and the major thing in plastic is the phalates, and the endocrine disrupting chemicals. So it was fascinating to have people from industry, big business, you know, big global businesses, who are in the world of hygiene, big consumer goods companies, the biggest fashion brand company was in the room, hearing direct from the scientists, the impact on fertility, the impact on female cancers, you know that the male fertility falling off a cliff, completely induced by our exposure to chemicals. And many of these are found in plastic, and the more omnipresent plastic is in our lives. And you are absolutely right, these these chemicals, leach into our food and drink. So every time we recycle, obviously, everybody wants more recycled content. Now to avoid the plastics tax. Every time we recycle plastic, these chemicals do not disappear. More than that, they compound up. And we use all traceability and all accountability for what chemicals are in what plastic because everybody’s trying to hit their 30% plastic recycle plastic content. So the scientists were pretty terrifying yesterday to talk about autoimmune disease and cancers and heart disease, cognitive disorders, the acceleration in autism, and the you know, the spectrum conditions that we see now the prevalence of these, and also the fact that we might not need to worry about hitting 10 billion people on the planet and how we’re going to feed everybody, because we are committing slow genocide, through addiction to toxic materials and plastics is a major one of those.
Catherine Weetman 33:39
And what was the atmosphere like in the room as people were listening to this? You know, what, were those people in the business audiences? Were they shocked? Were they kind of, you know, going through denial? How did how did the kinds of questions and answers play out?
Sian Sutherland 33:59
The problem with guilt and blame is that they’re such negative emotions, we retreat into our corners. And then we come up fighting. And we come out denying, and all we simply we move to inaction because fear does lead to inaction often. And so we’re very concerned that the people in industry in the room did not feel like a finger was being pointed at them that instead of those people that turned up, God bless them how brave they were to come and be in a room with scientists and here direct the magnitude of the problem and how we are all as human beings complicit in this. But now we need to change now, what we what we know we need to change. And for me, it was a very, very important session because industry has never been in the room before and who can blame them because once you hear those facts, you can never unhear them. And then you go back to your day job and what can you do to rail against the system that we are all part of, in many, many industries where It is entirely built on fossil fuels, and entirely built on plastic. And the fashion industry, of course, which is a massive user of plastic 70% of all our clothing is now made out of fossil fuel plastic, a huge part of the problem. fast fashion couldn’t exist without fossil fuels. But how does it change from this model that so completely dependent on it? So I really applaud the people that were in the room. And what I learned from that is they need help taking, taking this massive reason to change, how do they set it up the chain? How do they how do they there will be a white paper that comes out of this room, this event, but how do we create something that is a useful tool for them to then take to their stakeholders, their board members, their shareholders, to say, this is the reason we have to change. And the key word in all of this is risk. Because if everybody now knows, then, of course, even the shareholders and are complicit if they continue to use plastic as their default material. Because awareness is everything. And we have responsibility as shareholders and as directors of businesses to do no harm. So the information being packaged in the right way. And it being put forward, not as something that just simply terrifies people, but also empowers them to right now we’ve got the catalyst. Now many of the investment. Now we need to change the system and the material, and we need to do it fast. So we’re all in agreement. And we can get on that because we’re incredible when we all come together when the motivation is there. COVID was an extraordinary example of that, wasn’t it? And I look at the UK, and everybody was all you know, the economy is down 10% only 10%. And we’ve all lived it at home it for almost a year, a year and a half. How extraordinary was that? How adaptable we are. So I think this could be an extraordinary catalyst for us changing so much for running business in a very, very different way. weaning ourselves off plastic, weaning ourselves off fossil fuels? And and I applaud the people that came and listened. And now how can we help them? And the major reason that they think that’s going to help them is new laws, then it’s a have to not a nice thing.
Catherine Weetman 37:21
Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And just coming back to the chemicals, you know, I saw something again, in in one of the recent IEMA transform magazines, somebody’s written a piece about about chemicals. And there’s that number. Again, I can’t remember the number, but it’s in in the hundreds of 1000s of different chemicals that exist in the world. And really only a handful of those have been tested. And when they are tested, they’re tested in isolation, not in conjunction with the chemicals that they’re going to be mixed in a cocktail within in whatever. foodstuff cosmetic or, or plastic packaging. Again, that’s something that you know, people just don’t know, we kind of have this assumption, and why shouldn’t we make the assumption that what companies put into the world is safe? Yeah. And yet, we have no idea about the vast majority of of chemicals. Is that Is that something that the plastic free toolkit, would you? Will you be able to link to lists of chemicals? Will you be able to give people ideas as to, you know, what’s been safe, tested and safe? What’s it because even some of the biological chemicals can be toxic, can they How would people know is there somewhere they can go for that?
Sian Sutherland 38:42
You’re absolutely right. I mean, look at look at Deadly Nightshade, they’re getting more toxic than that. So yes, there’s some danger chemicals out there in nature. And it is phenomenal. When you look at the chemical industry 140,000 chemicals have been produced, only 50% of those chemicals have been tested for toxicity. And as you rightly say, often not in combination with their end use or combination with each other. Because we don’t know how these chemicals are going to be used. 14,000 chemicals are used to estimate plastic alone. So there are various organisations, that would be very anybody who’s listening who would like to find out more, go to the Food Packaging Forum, who excellent organisation ran by Jane Munke, who is a scientist, and she’s extraordinary. They’ve been working for 10 years, particularly in the use of toxic chemicals for food and drink. And so you can go to the food packaging for a website. And you can see I learned a hell of a lot from that. And then also there’s there’s certain professors of chemistry that I really advise that you follow. And they will be John Warner, who is in Boston, and he founded you know, he does a lot of work in green chemistry. And I heard him speaking recently. I thought it was fascinating that he was saying he worked for a big chemical company. And he said, I suddenly had this awakening thinking, how can it be that I work in a lab with all this hazmat gear, we’re incredibly good at protecting ourselves in the lab environment. And then we make these chemicals. And then we release them into the environment, we put them out there on the market. And we don’t know what happens to them next. The other person is Professor Terry Collins at Carnegie Mellon, huge amount of information and podcasts from him. He is literally the godfather of this. And then Professor Pete Myers, who is in Washington. So those three guys, I think, a very, very interesting to listen, if anybody wants to learn a lot more, you know, super detail, it is quite terrifying. But I think sometimes we need to have the living daylights scared out of us, for us to wake up, then we can move on, and then that world of opportunity and change and that that that wonderful future that we need to grab with both hands will be possible to us because right now, we are stuck in a toxic present thinking this is the only way forward, we think the future is something that just happens to us. It’s inevitable the climate crisis, this Armageddon of 2030, the rapid increase in plastic pollution, that are chemical dependency, the obesity epidemic, the diabetes epidemic, now let’s take some drugs in order to make it you know, little, because then again, it’s we think it’s only inevitable, it’s not we invent the future, we have to reinvent the future and create a very different picture of this positive, bright, optimistic, exciting future, that I feel a personal responsibility to create that vision and help build a roadmap towards it. Because I didn’t grow up with the Armageddon miserable picture of the future that my sons now have. And I feel an absolute responsibility because I’ve been such a big part of the problem for my entire life really have high power consumption and the just the, the way that we live believing more and more and more stuff is going to make us happy. And I think we all have a responsibility now to paint a picture of a different future.
Catherine Weetman 42:21
Okay, for now, here’s where we leave the conversation with Sian Sutherland. The second part with my takeaways from both parts will go out on Sunday, the second of July in Episode 108. So look out for that. I want to thank Simon Hombersley of Xampla, and Romi Sumaria of the Oblique Life podcast for making this episode possible. And massive thanks to our guest, the amazing Sian Sutherland, for sharing so many of her insights and ideas with us. And as always, thanks to you for listening, sharing and being part of the solution. You can find out more about Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet, and PlasticFree.com follow them on social media. And check out all the other links we mentioned in the show notes at Circular Economy podcast.com.
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