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Circular Economy Podcast 97 Alice Mah - Unpicking plastic propaganda

97 Alice Mah – unpicking plastics propaganda

IT’S EPISODE 97, and today we’ll be talking about plastics, a familiar circular economy topic, from someone with a someone with a less familiar background… Alice Mah is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, in the UK, and she’ll help us unpick the propaganda about plastics and their role in a circular economy
I came across Alice’s work when IEMA’s Transform magazine interviewed her about her latest book, Plastic Unlimited: How Corporations are Fuelling the Ecological Crisis and What We Can Do About It. I’m a member of IEMA, which is the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. Alice unpacked some of the ways the plastics industry is trying to improve our perception of plastics, including how it tries to reframe the circular economy as a recycling issue. She highlighted other worrying aspects of how the petrochemicals industry is operating, and we’ll hear some of those.
Spookily, a few weeks later, on the same day I’d emailed Alice to invite her on, I was in the kitchen half-listening to BBC Radio 4’s sociology programme, Thinking Allowed, and up popped Alice, being interviewed about the ways the plastic industry uses its corporate power to influence our thinking around plastics.
Alice Mah holds a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics and was Principal Investigator of the large-scale European Research Council project “Toxic Expertise: Environmental Justice and the Global Petrochemical Industry” from 2015-2020. Her research focuses on environmental justice, corporate power, and the politics of green industrial transformations. Her next book the is Petrochemical Planet: Multiscalar Battles of Industrial Transformation.
In today’s conversation, I’ve asked Alice to help bust some myths around plastics and their potential role in a circular economy…
Myth #1 Plastics can support a Net Zero economy
Myth #2 Plastics are safe – in other words, it’s wrong to link plastics to health issues
Myth #3 Plastics are essential for our quality of life
Myth #4 Exporting plastic waste to low-income countries helps the country, and/or the local people, create value from that plastic
Myth #5 Plastic recycling can play an important role in the circular economy.

Circular Economy Podcast Ep89 Simon Hombersley - Xampla

89 Simon Hombersley – plastics from plant protein

Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla, shares the story of how this Cambridge University spin-out has created the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use, pioneering the replacement of the most polluting plastics with natural alternatives. Xampla’s ambition is to become the leader in natural polymers, and it’s been developing its natural polymer resin over the past 15 years. The polymer, which Xampla describes as a breakthrough material, performs just like synthetic polymers, but decomposes naturally and fully without harming the environment at the end of life.
Xampla is the first UK University spin-out to be awarded B Corp status and is working with multi-national companies, including Britvic, Gousto and Croda on new technologies.

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 71 Rob Thompson – scaling up circular marine plastic solutions

Episode 71 Rob Thompson – scaling up circular marine plastic solutions

Odyssey Innovation collects and recycles marine plastic into kayaks and other products. In 2020, we heard about the UK south-west coast operations – now it is expanding, with the Net Generation Scheme – helping the fishing industry, local government and lots of other stakeholders to create a scalable circular solution to reduce marine plastics. This is something that could expand around the world!

Circular Economy Podcast - Episode 58 Rae Stanton - Lush Cosmetics

Episode 59 – Rae Stanton of Lush

Rae Stanton is the Earthcare Retail Lead for Lush Cosmetics UK and Ireland, using Permaculture principles to provide environmental best practice insight and guidance on packaging, sourcing regenerative ingredients and much more.
We find out how Lush embeds Permaculture and regenerative agriculture approaches into its business practices, and why Lush realised it needed to ‘own the packaging solution’ instead of relying on municipal recycling collections. Rae explains how Lush engaged its customers in designing ‘bring-back’ solutions, including asking them how much the reward should be.

Good emoji bad emoji

Plastics – the good, the (less) bad and the ugly…

Do ‘headline-grabbing’ initiatives that are just a tiny bit ‘less bad’ risk undermining the circular economy? Instead, should we focus on new systems, products and materials that help regenerate resources, living systems and communities? Regenerative solutions could provide a clearer path forward and encourage people (and business and policymakers) to ‘do more good’.
These recent examples of plastic circular economy initiatives illustrate what we could describe as the good, the (less) bad and the ugly. They show why it’s important to consider the ‘big picture’ for circular and sustainability ideas, so you can think about how to maximise positive impact and avoid unforeseen consequences (and reputational risk!).

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 40 Sharing Data and Values

Episode 40 – Sharing data and values

We round up themes from the last nine episodes, exploring how data is the key to solving problems of waste and underused assets, and why aligning values with your customers is important. Plus, Catherine is celebrating publication of the new edition of her award-winning A Circular Economy Handbook, and shares a code so you can save 20 percent on the print or e-book, worldwide.

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 39 – Rob Thompson of Odyssey Innovation

Episode 39 – Rob Thompson of Odyssey Innovation

Rob Thompson, of Odyssey Innovation in the UK, is an Multi-award winning Innovator, a Marine Conservationist, and a Social Entrepreneur. Rob started Odyssey Innovation to find a way to create value out of beach litter and marine plastics, and is now recycling those plastics into kayaks and other useful products. Rob also supports the Paddle for Plastic campaign.

Transforming plastic waste into social value

Across Africa, and much of the world, end-of-use plastic is not collected for proper recycling. Instead, it is burnt; ends up in drains, sewers, fields and rivers; or in unprotected landfill, allowing toxins and microplastics to leak out. This is one of the hidden costs of our modern ‘linear’ economy – take, make and waste. Four entrepreneurs are turning that plastic waste into value – creating jobs for both disadvantaged and skilled people, improving local environments, and helping people find a purpose. We dig into their business models and hear their top tips for circular startups