In the 2nd part of the conversation with Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and PlasticFree.com, Sian tells Catherine Weetman why, instead of seeing a miserable picture of the future, we can reinvent a better, brighter future. As Sian says, by “fixing the plastic crisis, we will fix so much else.”
A Plastic Planet is one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering global creatives to design waste out at source.
Sian Sutherland, an award-winning serial entrepreneur across several industries, wants to ignite social change, and. At the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), this year, Sian and A Plastic Planet partnered with the Plastic Soup Foundation to launch the Plastic Health Council. This brings expert scientists to the UN Plastics Treaty negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health.
In the 21st century, we find plastic in almost every part of our lives – but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, or only solution. Many of those people who resist the idea of a move away from plastics tell us that it’s a fantastic material, that it enables us to create a wide range of products to solve all kinds of challenges.
The plastics industry spends millions on promoting plastic as the perfect material for thousands of products, being cheap, lightweight, clean, and convenient. But we’re becoming more aware of serious downsides, for our health, and for the health of our living planet.
On social media, you can see people cherry-picking examples of plastics used in medical and safety products, such as syringes, PPE, safety glasses, life jackets and so on. I’ve noticed most of those people are in roles that depend on the continued use of plastics. But the examples they list aren’t the whole picture, and it’s not a given that those examples are of plastics that are safe in use, or safe at the end of use. What’s more, those examples don’t mean that we should just go along with the continued expansion of single-use plastics.
Who says we can’t find better ways to design products, packaging and systems to meet the needs of people, planet and prosperity? Sian is 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 next generations.
In this episode we discuss neuromarketing, some of the uses of microbeads and microcapsules 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 Reuseable Packaging Coalition, founded by another podcast guest, Jo Chidley.
And we ask why big companies are finding it so difficult to break away from those last-century systems – take, make, use, and dispose – and how those businesses risk becoming irrelevant, following in the footsteps of Kodak – disrupted by better solutions.
Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer. Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started. Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).
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Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.
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Links we mention in the episode:
- A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business – buy from any good bookseller, or direct from the publisher Kogan Page, which ships worldwide (free shipping to UK and US) and you can use discount code CIRCL20 to get 20% off. It’s available in paperback, ebook and Kindle. If you buy it from online sources, make sure you choose the new edition with an orange cover!
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Sian on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sian-sutherland-33485b10/
A Plastic Planet on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/a-plastic-planet/
- PlasticFree on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/plasticfree-com/
Books, people and organisations we mentioned
- Degenerate trainer/sneaker from the Unless Collective https://unlesscollective.com/products/the-degenerate
- Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) https://www.nfw.earth/
- Book – The Day the World Stopped Shopping by J B MacKinnon https://www.jbmackinnon.com/the-day-the-world-stops-shopping
- Book – The Innovator’s Dilemma by Prof. Clayton Christenson https://claytonchristensen.com/books/the-innovators-dilemma/
- Greenpeace article on how long the shopping buzz lasts https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/7493/shopping-doesnt-make-us-happy/
- Plants have adapted to the toxic conditions created by nuclear waste from Chernobyl https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190701-why-plants-survived-chernobyls-deadly-radiation
- Scientists are working to identify microbes that can feed on ocean and other waste plastics https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/14/bugs-across-globe-are-evolving-to-eat-plastic-study-finds
- Jo Chidley – episode 84 https://www.rethinkglobal.info/jo-chidley-rere/
- Algramo – episode 103 https://www.rethinkglobal.info/103-algramo-refill-the-future/
- Maria Westerbos of the Plastic Soup Foundation – episode 82 https://www.rethinkglobal.info/82-maria-westerbos-plastic-soup-foundation/
Sian Sutherland is Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organisations tackling the plastic crisis and PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering the 160m global creatives to design waste out at source. Igniting social change, creating brands and businesses with soul is Sian’s passion.
Multi-award winner, including Female Marketer of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and British Inventor of the Year; Sian is a serial entrepreneur with varied background across industries. In 2023 at the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, A Plastic Planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing the expert scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health.
Passionately pro-business and solutions focused, Sian believes the plastic crisis gives mankind a rare gateway to change both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations.
Want to dig deeper?
Why not buy Catherine’s award-winning book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy. Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable.
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Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’. Or, follow them on Twitter.