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82 – Maria Westerbos – Plastic Soup Foundation

Circular Economy Podcast 82 Maria Westerbos – Plastic Soup Foundation

We know plastic waste is a massive problem – but do we know how plastic is affecting our health? Catherine Weetman talks to Maria Westerbos about the groundbreaking work of the Plastic Soup Foundation.

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of the amount of plastic in our lives – whether it is clothing and household textiles made from synthetic fibres like polyester, acrylic, lycra and so on, or the anti-crease finishes, flame retardants and other additives in those fibres. And of course, there’s plastic packaging, the outer cases of phones and laptops, and much, much more. Plastic has many useful properties: it can be moulded into complex shapes, it’s light weight, flexible, durable and so on.

But now, we’re realizing there are downsides to all this – what happens when plastic is discarded, and ends up causing pollution and harm to other living species – and also, how plastic, and the chemicals it contains, is affecting our health. We know plastic particles and microfibres are now found all around the world, and are contaminating our water and food – but what about our contact with plastics in our daily lives… they are in lots of personal care products, we wear them next to our skin, we eat food that’s been wrapped in plastic.

Maria Westerbos explains why we need to understand much more about the impact of plastics on our health, and how some of the organisations that exist to protect our health are – shamefully – looking the other way.

Maria is an expert in mass communication, and she’s used her background as a science journalist, her 25 years experience working in TV and her intuition to inspire social change.

In 2011 she set up Plastic Soup Foundation. With its first campaign, Beat the Microbead, the Foundation has succeeded in changing both the perceptions and use of microplastics by international businesses, local and national governments, consumers and NGOs.

We hear how Maria found the sweet-spot to engage people with making changes to their daily lives, including the Beat the Microbead app to help you check what’s behind the product label.

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:

About Maria Westerbos

Maria Westerbos is an expert in mass communication. She combines a taste for inspiring social change projects with strategic insight and near-flawless intuition covering a wide range of target groups.

Maria started as a science journalist but gradually became involved in the world of television. She worked for more than 25 years (primarily freelance) for broadcasting companies and production companies, initially as editor/researcher, but then as producer, production coordinator, editor-in-chief, executive producer, business-unit manager, delegated producer and creative producer.

In 2011 she set up Plastic Soup Foundation. With its first campaign, Beat the Microbead, the Foundation established change in the use of microplastics by international businesses, local and national governments, consumers and NGOs.

Maria is a flamboyant woman with a zest for life who is able to motivate groups with inspiring stories about taking a positive approach to complex problems for permanent change.

Plastic Soup Foundation

Founded in February 2011, Plastic Soup Foundation is an environmental non-profit organisation campaigning to end plastic pollution. With a passionate team, Plastic Soup Foundation gives everything to challenge the impact of plastic pollution in the environment, the oceans, and crucially, in the human body.

Based in Amsterdam, Plastic Soup Foundation has an international reach. They are the founders and organisers of the Plastic Health Summit, an annual global conference which brings together the world’s most eminent scientists to assess the latest research on how plastic affects the human body, as well as bringing forward solutions to negate its impact on our health and the planet.

Plastic Soup Foundation’s other campaigns to curb the impact of plastic waste include the Ocean Clean Wash, a campaign to reduce synthetic fibre pollution by 80 percent in the coming years, as well as launching the Plastic Health Channel in 2021 – an online channel which brings together experts and academics to discuss new research on how plastic enters and affects the body.

Plastic Soup Foundation also coordinates World Cleanup Day – the biggest worldwide cleanup action of the year – on behalf of the Netherlands.

Interview Transcript

Provided by AI – add ~3:45 mins for the finished episode

Catherine Weetman  00:00

So, Maria, welcome to the Circular Economy Podcast.

Maria Westerbos  00:04

Hi, nice to be here.

Catherine Weetman  00:06

And perhaps we could start by asking you to tell us what the Plastic Soup Foundation is, and what it aims to do.

Maria Westerbos  00:14

The Plastic Soup Foundation is an NGO, and I did fund the organisation 11 years ago. And what we try to do is stop plastic pollution at the source. So we do not clean up beaches or the ocean, what we do is trying to stop leakage to the environment of plastic.

Catherine Weetman  00:38

So what kinds of things does that involve?

Maria Westerbos  00:42

Well, cosmetics, for example, we started 10 years ago, we started Beat the Microbead. And that was about the little beads that are in personal care products. And in the it took us 10 years, but now there are no beats anymore in Europe. In cosmetics, we we did achieve that it’s out of there, that it tasted very happy with that.

Catherine Weetman  01:11

Yeah, that’s a fantastic achievement. And so how did you go about building that campaign? You know, how did you get started and build momentum?

Maria Westerbos  01:22

Well, we started we started with, with seeing two people that they were that the ‘plastic soup’ was not a far away issue, not far from their bed, but that it’s in, in the bathroom. So that taking a shower would mean that you would add plastic to the ocean, to the environment, to waterways. And telling people that was quite a shock. And at first we reached out, especially to women, highly educated 2014, nine, that was the age group, they were very sensible for the for the message. And they started asking retailers to stop selling plastic weed beats, cosmetics with beats in it.

Catherine Weetman  02:13

Hmm. And so that’s really interesting, the connection between what you’re doing in your everyday life, and then this, this problem of the plastic soup. And just before we go further, for those who haven’t heard of the, you know, the plastic soup problem, could you tell us a little bit about what that is.

Maria Westerbos  02:31

And plastic soup is I when I for the first time heard of the plastic soup, it was as if I was struck by lightning hits, it’s about the plastic and never breaks down really it breaks down with a very, very, very small pieces, and nano plastics and even smaller where you cannot see it anymore. And and during my lifetime, when I was a kid, I had him step, which was made of wood, I had a little bike, which was made of iron and steel. And hardly anything of it was plastic. And when somebody told me, I’m a journalist, I am asked to do some research about the problems for our time and reach problems. We did not or we’re very hard to solve. And when he told me about plastic soup, as I told I was struck by lightning, I thought so plastic never goes away under my watch. I did not notice that all that plastic ended up in waterways and in the ocean. And so there is a lot of plastic in the ocean now because it went to their. And by the way it’s also in the air.

Catherine Weetman  03:52

Yeah, yeah, we’re finding out it’s, it’s everywhere, isn’t it embedded in in permafrost as it’s sunk down over the over the years and the decades. And so let’s talk about some of those issues. So as well as being in the ocean, and lots of us will have seen the documentaries. Looking at how you know it ends up inside fishers it ends up even making areas where fish can’t, you know, bigger fish can’t even swim through because it’s attached to fishing lines and all that kind of stuff, making it impenetrable. So we’ve seen the sort of health problems that it’s causing for creatures in the ocean. But there are lots of other issues starting to come to light about what happens when these plastics break down. Which ones do you think people need to know about and what do they need to know?

Maria Westerbos  04:50

What happens with the fish or what happens with a bird like the Midways and the albatross was living there? What’s happening with them? is happening with us, we are not different from any other species. And we think we are, but we’re not. So we have plastic in our blood, we have plastic in our lungs, and you need to know that that has an effect. And not only because plastic is inert, so our immune system starts attacking that plastic does not respond. And then our immune system gets stressed. And the cells explode. They’re just like little bombs.

Catherine Weetman  05:35


Maria Westerbos  05:36

And that causes inflammation, and probably it causes diseases like cancer. And I, yeah, I can I can tell you terrible diseases, and I can predict those. But let’s not do that, because you get very sad of that. And next to that there are chemicals in all those plastics and those chemicals. We already know, for 30 years, I think at least, that those chemicals are very bad for our health. But industry or governments, both are not taking any measures against that. And that means we’re talking about infertility, talking about autism, Parkinson’s, dementia, are they are they let me not go on, because, again, it will make you very sad. And we should stop adding so much chemicals in plastic, next to the fact that we should not produce so much plastic.

Catherine Weetman  06:49

Yeah, I think those are, those are two really interesting issues, we’ve been hearing a lot about five microfibers. And we might come back to that and kind of nanoparticles. But the immune system issue, again, it you know, when you first hear about it, it seems counter counter intuitive, doesn’t it, you kind of imagine that if something’s more or less inert, then your immune system would sort of leave it alone, if it’s not causing a bigger harm. But to then find out that actually, that’s not what happens and your immune system is sort of going into overdrive. And the fact that it can’t do anything about this imposter substance and chemical and you know, solid that’s in your system, then causes even more issues with your immune system is very interesting. And you know, the chemicals, it’s kind of, I’ve just been helping to try and remove some asbestos from my parents house, so we can have some work done. And, you know, I’ve been through it before for my own houses. And it’s, you know, it’s something where, even when we knew in the 1980s, that asbestos was a problem. Even when that was out in the open, it was still legal to use it. And it was being sold off cheap. So ended up in all sorts of, of extra places. And it’s this, this, you know, this discovery, as we find often with pharmaceuticals, and so on that after 10 years, when the long term effects can be split studied, that’s when we decide that actually this is harmful. And now we need to get it out of the system. But some things like plastics, particularly, there’s just so much profit involved. That the, the funding of the resistance, just like with fossil fuels, the funding is is really powerful, isn’t it and it and it drowns out, tries to drown out voices like yours and plastic soup and lots of the other campaigners.

Maria Westerbos  08:58

At the same time, if you make if you compare it with asbestos, plastic is an oil. So it’s oil, and then it’s a little bit more than oil, we added chemicals to it. So imagine you have oil in your blood. Of course, immune system cannot beat oil, even we cannot look at the birth, which is a call to an oil spill. And then imagine that you have to take your blood and your lungs and in your veins probably. So there’s oil in your veins.. So you know, it’s something that call it by the name. And then it’s even worse

Catherine Weetman  09:40

than asbestos. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s worse.

Maria Westerbos  09:43

It’s then the story comes about the profit.

Catherine Weetman  09:46

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. That I mean, my comparison was that even when the world started to realise that asbestos and lead and other things, there’s still this kind of resistance to it. And, you know, just ridding ourselves of it and waking up to, to the dangers. And so, let’s come back to what about the microfibers? And you mentioned nanoplastics. Earlier on, are there any specific issues that you want to highlight with those? And I would say that about 20 years ago, we started making our clothes garments from more and more from plastic. Right now. It’s 69% 69% polyester. And then I’m amongst that nylon and acrylic. Before 2030, that will be 80%. And the most shocking fact i i think is that in Holland, where we have less than 18 million people, we throw away 1 billion garments, pieces of garment, a year, 1 billion a year, wow, we are 80 million people. And that’s because you can wash Primark, Primark, clothes, clothes, you can watch them five times, and then it’s to new clothes of the Emperor. And other brands have the same issue. It’s made of such a bad quality. That and the yarn is so short, and so weak, that it breaks down, almost looking at it. And that’s an exaggeration, of course. So because of that, our garment is spreading, or entering the air, and then we breathe it in. And now we already know, we feel it’s found by scientists in living long sea living people. And in that people, and we know these very smart, very little plastic parts can get in between cells. So those garments, probably if they can enter in our blood waste, and damaging death, whatever they do. I predict that it’s not more than two years before we can say that inhaling your own garments, makes you sick. We do know nylon has that effect. People who work in Ireland factories have problems with their lungs, there’s it could be that we all suffer from it. But two years from now, we will be sure or not. Well, I think yes.  Wow, well, that’s, that’s a new, new bit of information for me that, you know, there’s research emerging to say that workers in nylon factories who are in inhaling the fumes and the and the particles and so on are becoming sick. So yeah, another another bit of shocking news. And just before we well, I’d like to like to kind of know more about the campaign’s that that you have on the go now. So we mentioned the microbeads. So what what are you focusing on at the moment? What What would you like to change this week, next week?

Maria Westerbos  13:33

Well, we have this app, the Beat the Microbead app. And it’s almost downloaded, somewhere between 450,000 or 500,000 people have the app already. They did send us 3 million, over 3 million labels of products. And we have to check that all by hand. So two people are working on that constantly. That’s quite intense. And we count it. Recently, we count the 1000s of products from very big multinationals to see if the claim that they are plastic free, was right. And they were not. And nine out of 10 big brands of big multinationals are containing plastics, and then we talk so for plastics, so called biodegradable plastics, all kinds of plastics that are not forbidding yet. And what we try to tell the whole world is that plastic ism is a chemical and there should be rules for that as the case not just something I always say and it’s a little bit strange compare compare it comparison is a bit strange. But if if you believe in God, he would not, or she would not on the eighth day invented plastic. Because plastic is something that never goes away. It’s an oil product. Why should you do that? The only thing that we added to the evolution, also the evolution of Darwin in which I believe more is plastic. Without human, there would not be plastic.

Catherine Weetman  15:33

Yeah, and there’s so much pushback from those in petrochemicals on fossil fuels to remind us what a wonder product is. And that would kind of be okay, if it stayed as a product and stayed intact. But it’s the problem that it you know, it breaks down in fibres. When fragments get into the ocean, it becomes a chemical carrier for all the the additives and the colorings and the other toxic things that are in it. So if it if it was sort of inert and stayed in one place, so that we could get it back and recycle it, and you know, it, it didn’t disperse. That would kind of be okay, but that’s not what happens is it there’s there’s so much dispersal as we’re as we’re finding out,

Maria Westerbos  16:22

no, it’s not happening. So and all these different types of there are 140,000 types of plastic, or because of adding different chemicals to it, or changing one molecule. So if you if you have a ban on BPA, you have BPF you have BPS, you just change one molecule, it’s all profit profit of planet. And it doesn’t matter who dies. But the big multinationals, they make one mistake, and that is that plastic does not has no the afford, nobody is going to escape of plastic. So it doesn’t matter if you are poor, living in the African desert, or you’re on multinational thinking that you can escape in your rocket. Whatever you think you cannot escape as escape, you’re not more or you’re not above through all things that you create yourself.

Catherine Weetman  17:27


Maria Westerbos  17:27

Plastic doesn’t care who you are!  Or how much money you have!

Catherine Weetman  17:31

Yeah, just just like climate change, you know, it’s, it’s created by a relative few. And yet it’s affecting everybody around the world. So so just to go back a number of years to the beginning. Maria, you talked about feeling like you’ve been struck by lightning when you when you heard about the problems of plastic? So how did you come up with the idea for the Plastic Soup Foundation?

Maria Westerbos  17:58

Well, as I told you, I said to told before, I hired a journalist, a young guy, and I asked him to bring me a list of problems of our age, and our century, and, and then the solutions and two things stayed over, or that’s how you said in Dutch, but two problems. Were there. And and that was plastic soup and the bees and the bees, I thought that’s caused by human and other people need to solve that. But plastic soup, I saw this is not true. This is impossible. And if this happened during my watch, I need to do something about it. I need to work on that change my ways and change. Take another course, leave my job and do something good. Take care of the world, because that’s what you need to do if you have the possibility, I think

Catherine Weetman  19:06

So that that really was a complete lightning strike, wasn’t it sort of the world telling you that you needed to do to make a big impact here. And so you’ve talked about the success with the so far with the micro beads, and that that’s still going on with the with the app, and we can send a link out so that people can find out about the app and and download that and help with the campaign. What else have you been proud of in those 10 years or so Maria?

Maria Westerbos  19:39

Well, we started with telling the world about the farmers. I’m very proud of that too. And in 2016, I said I think there’s like asbestos and the hole in the ozone layer. and other big issues of our time. And I thought if something changes, or is if there’s something that changes our behaviour, then its health and the connection between plastic and health. So we started looking for ways to bring the health issue issue to the front, and we succeeded in that by now there is an avalanche of scientists looking at the connection between plastic and health. And I’m very proud of the facts that we are part of that we organised now two plastic health summits, one in 2019. And recently in October in 2021, we did it again, we reached out to the second plastic health summit, we reached 600 million people in the world and bringing the message of scientists because it’s especially a place where scientists can tell the world what what’s happening. And I’m very proud of that. We will do that again in May 2023. But now also a me for solutions because I think we are we are it the world is not doing fine, we are not doing fine. Everything escalates. So let’s find ways to work together and to solve this terrible problems. And I think we really are in a hurry, because we don’t have much time left. This it’s it’s really it’s one minute before 12.

Catherine Weetman  21:48

Yeah. I agree.

Maria Westerbos  21:51

We need the big thinkers of our time.

Catherine Weetman  21:53

I agree. And we all need to, to do whatever we can to push for change. And I’m really interested that you realise that connecting plastic and health could be the game changer in terms of getting people engaged. And do you see that that trend that resonance? Do you see that continuing to build? Or are people starting to think perhaps more about nature and so on? What do you see as the key driver for change?

Maria Westerbos  22:21

Now they’re connected, it’s one health, it’s planet boundaries. So it’s all connected, it’s I, yeah, people do respond on that big industry responds on it too. So we are getting and we are being approached more and more by big retail, big retailers, big industry that also realises that it needs that we need to change and we need to do it all together. I do think that the World Health Organisation has a task in this and they don’t do anything, but it’s about plastic and health. And I call upon them again to do something because I think it’s almost a shame that they don’t. And, and the European Parliament and the UNEP. They all it’s now we’re working on plastic global treaty. But we need to take into account health and our health and the planet health that’s not in there yet. You know, it’s more focused on the ocean because of big lobby of industry. And that should, that should not be the case, we should focus on human health, animal health, the balance of the planet and stop this excessive production of plastic and chemicals.

Catherine Weetman  23:52

That’s interesting. And I need to be careful how I phrase this. So I don’t end up being sued for libel. But I remember I think it was the film Supersize Me more than 10 years ago, about, you know, obesity and fast food and the power of that lobby and hearing about the evidence presented to the World Health Organisation that both sugar and saturated fats were the two big issues for human health. And the food lobby, were, you know, obviously up in arms, that they’re their ways of making things cheaper and more addictive. We’re being criticised. And they particularly the American ones, and I think it was even the American government threatened that who that they would pull the funding and the American funding was probably half the who is budget and said, you know, you can only have one of these and the who chose saturated fat. And so all the problems of sugar and addiction and all the rest of it kind of got squashed for another 10 or 15 years, because of the lobbying by the food industry. So, you know, I wonder if there’s a similar thing, stopping that story getting out and saying, you know, you need to focus on oceans. And, you know, and all the usual stuff of we’ll, we’ll deal with this, you don’t have to worry about making a fuss or legislating or anything else, you know, we know it’s a problem, we’ll deal with it. And of course, nothing ever happens, does it?

Maria Westerbos  25:28

I’m sure, sure it is the case. Because after World War Two, we were trusting on industry to bring us on a higher level of living, and if the industry could grow, we would all have a better living. Like, once the kids start transparent, you see what you get. It’s hygenic, Kid worlds will be better. And every every bit, your standard of living will increase, incredible how we will live a fruitful and great life forever and ever and ever. And government started believing in that in that dream, and that ultimate dream. And now, and so governments are listening to the industry industry is not listening to governments anymore. Now, it’s like, don’t look up, we don’t look up. We are not looking at ads, that big motherxxx that is approaching us, and will enrol, and the our wealth forever. Because we don’t have water and don’t have food, and oh, they have Iran and whatever, and don’t cannot make chips anymore. So what are we going to do? Yeah, how do we do? Will we start fighting for for the little water that is left in the end?

Catherine Weetman  26:46

Well, that’s already been predicted by certainly, I think the the UN and maybe even the World Economic Forum that, you know, kind of water was, is a is a clear risk on the horizon,

Maria Westerbos  27:03

when we started drinking the water of the ocean? And how long will we do that? Because we can filter just sold out of it. That’s not the issue. It’s expensive, and it will get cheap. But what then, what’s the next thing?

Catherine Weetman  27:16

Exactly? Yeah, exactly. It’s it’s just this thing that there’s always a new frontier isn’t that to go and go and extract something from? So coming back to the to the work that you’ve done, Maria? What What has surprised you along the way? Sounds like you’ve covered some amazing ground. So what have been the surprises pleasant or otherwise along the way?

Maria Westerbos  27:40

Well, what were the I when I experienced is that one or two or three people can make a difference. And you always say, I cannot, I cannot make a difference. It’s the world is too big. And I will never, I will never achieve that. But then if you just start. And of course, that’s what I told some young guys this morning. Also, there’s a little bit of luck, and it’s the right group of people. And it’s like, and it’s the time in which you live. And it’s a little bit of serendipity. And it’s and it’s keep on going don’t hesitate. Don’t be afraid. Keep up the spirits. And it’s all that together, which makes that you can make a difference. Just you me. And that’s the most amazing thing that I am that I experienced that you and I still, and I’m still incredibly grateful also for that.

Catherine Weetman  28:41

Yeah, that’s brilliant. I think that should be so inspiring for everybody listening that you know, even if you just a solo campaign or or or what want to create something that’s that’s better. There’s nothing stopping you doing that. And, and just keep going. I think that’s brilliant advice. And so in terms of helping people and businesses to reduce or eliminate the plastic that they’re using, maybe go circular so it doesn’t it’s ideally we eliminate it but if you can’t do that, then how can then could you go circular? What would be your top tip for those people?

Maria Westerbos  29:25

Yeah, look at your grandmother. Don’t make it so difficult. You know there was soap and it was not a plastic and not half of the personal care product in the in the bottle is not plastic was not plastic. There is so much knowledge in your own grandmother. There’s so much what we did in different way for 1000s of years and we just did have we made it a mess in the last 70-80 years. And that’s nothing if you compare it with manhood to so let’s just take a little step back, take a deep breath, and change your ways. Also. Also, if you are a company take a wooden pencil, why should it – or steel? Why should it all be plastic? Change! Of course your computer is partly plastic and your phone but a lot of the other stuff for your your your carpets or your your bag or whatever that does need to be plastic. Your curtains not you can just – my house is – there’s little plastic in my house – a lot of wood.

Catherine Weetman  30:41

Yeah, I think that’s that’s great advice. And I’ve certainly been thinking about, you know, not buying any more plastic clothing, as in, you know, I’m wearing a polyester fleece it might be might be good quality. And I’ve probably had it for at least 10 years, but it’s still plastic. And I’m thinking much more about the clothes that I wear next to my skin and trying to prioritise natural fibres there instead of anything that synthetic. So thank you. That’s good advice. And who would you recommend as a future guests for the programme Maria,

Maria Westerbos  31:17

I would talk with Make a Change, on Bali. Those young people, two brothers and a sister, they are working, they are working their butts off for a better for a better world. And they already have one hundred beams in waterways in Bali, where they take out plastic, recover it, see what they can make of it, telling the message. They are very brave in expeditions where they show the Indonesian government that the river is very polluted and that somebody should take action on that. And they achieve a lot there. I think they are young people and they are powerful and stare future. And they are standing there taking a stand. They’re fierce and proud and impressive. So make a change in Bali.

Catherine Weetman  32:15

Thank you that sounds great. And I’ll I’ll definitely get in touch with them. And Maria, if you had a magic wand and you could change one thing in the world overnight, what would that be and why?

Maria Westerbos  32:27

And well, of course plastic changing in biodegradable plastic or something that seems like plastic but it’s not with the same qualities we we like so much in it. But then when it wears down goes down and disappears. And where it’s not affecting the world in such a way as it does now. So kind of an organic,

Catherine Weetman  32:56

yeah, I kind of a Bio-based plastic that doesn’t have all those chemicals and additives embedded in it that are going to escape later. So yeah, and I think there are there are quite a few entrepreneurs and bigger companies working on that. That I guess you know, it needs to it needs to ideally be made out of agricultural waste products doesn’t like we can’t afford to commit more land to growing plastics.

Maria Westerbos  33:24

Now you should have a look into Xampla X, A, M. P L A are they made today with the it’s like the web of spider. And they worked on that. And there is a plastic that really completely breaks down and it’s an English and British invention. It’s a very impressive, right.

Catherine Weetman  33:49

I think I might have got that on my podcast guestlist for the future, actually. But I will I will look them up and make sure. So excellent. Thank you, Maria. And how can people find out more about you and the plastic soup foundation and get in touch and download the app.

Maria Westerbos  34:09

Just go to And there you’ll find Facebook, Twitter, everything. If you want to go specifically for me to microbeads there’s another site also go to It’s the same you find the site there, or go to your app store BeatTheMicrobead. It’s very easy. Download it, it’s free for Android and Apple and enjoy yourself when you are looking at labels and see what’s in there.

Catherine Weetman  34:47

So beat microbead

Maria Westerbos  34:49

Beat The Microbead

Catherine Weetman  34:50

Beat the Microbead great stuff and I’ll put the link for that in the show notes as well. Maria Thank you very much. That was fascinating, though obviously a bit a bit depressing with the size of the challenge. But if we if we don’t look up, we don’t see the size of the challenge and we don’t get worried enough to actually do something about it and take action. So thank you that was really inspiring. And yeah, lots lots of new information, even for for me thinking I’m quite well informed, there was new stuff there, that is worrying. So thank you very much.

Maria Westerbos  35:25

You. Thank you. Thank you, Catherine.

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s 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. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

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.

Ep124 Mirella Ferraz – Share Shed

124 Share Shed: the world’s first travelling library of things

Mirella Ferraz is co-founder of Share Shed, the world's first travelling library of things. The Share Shed van visits rural communities, so people can borrow a wide range of useful things, including tools, household appliances, camping and gardening equipment, sewing machines, suitcases and much more! Share Shed aims to • Help people save money, space and resources, and reduce clutter…
Ep123 Topolytics making waste visible, verifiable and valuable

123 Topolytics: making waste visible, verifiable and valuable

We explore why it’s important for business to map, and understand their waste flows: what it is, specifically; where it comes from and goes to; how much there is – and why!; and to understand the opportunities for wasting less and circulating more value. Topolytics is a data analytics business that is making the world’s waste visible, verifiable and valuable.…
Ep122 Iain McKechnie – steps to a services-led strategy

122 Iain McKechnie: steps to a services-led strategy

Iain McKechnie of the Advanced Services Group helps clients develop services-led strategies, improving circularity and outcomes for the businesses and their customers. The market for services, including rental, subscriptions and ‘X-as-a-service’ is growing rapidly, both for business to business and business to consumer markets, and services can be a gamechanger for businesses looking to shrink their footprint and adopt circular…
Ep121 Claire and Kitty – Contemporary Hempery

121 Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown: Contemporary Hempery

Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown are two inspiring people who are passionate about the properties and potential of hemp, especially for textiles. Their journey together led them to found a UK business, Contemporary Hempery. Hemp has amazing potential, for a wide range of products, and it’s brilliant for regenerative farming practices – so why aren’t we doing more with…
Ep120 Catherine Weetman – priorities are changing

120 Priorities are changing

People’s priorities are changing, as we realise more stuff doesn’t make us happier– so how can businesses thrive by doing better, with less? In this episode, Catherine suggests it’s time to bust one of the myths of the modern economy – people don’t want more and stuff! Priorities are changing, people are realising that more stuff doesn't make us happier.…

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