Policy11 June 2021

Prof Michael Shaver calls on Greater Manchester to provide vision for global sustainable plastics debate at Green Summit 2019

In 2019, Prof Michael Shaver was invited to give the keynote talk for the Innovation Zone at the Greater Manchester Green Summit hosted by Mayor Andy Burnham.

As a leading expert in polymer science, Prof Shaver called on Greater Manchester to provide the vision to solve the global problem of plastic waste. He highlighted the need for economic reform to help solve plastics pollution alongside new polymer development and the need to recover value from waste rather than demonizing all plastics use.

Professor Michael Shaver outlined the scale of the issue, with 40 billion tons of plastic waste projected to be in the Earth’s system by 2050. To address this threat, a change is needed in public attitudes to plastics, in waste management processes, and in the design of new ‘smarter’ materials.

With materials innovation at The University of Manchester and a major policy commitment across the region to deal with plastic waste, Professor Shaver commented that Greater Manchester is well-positioned to provide a sustainability model for others to follow:

One of the major problems we have is not valuing plastic materials, and throwing them away as waste. In the past couple of years we have a welcome change of language. From going ‘plastic free’ – which, for example, would double food waste and quadruple packaging waste – we’re now talking about better materials, and the smarter use of materials.

We need to focus on the different types and use of plastic – to look at what we can biodegrade, reuse, and recycle. Plastics are often in many hidden product components – and the way we treat each one requires optimization. As scientists we are working on new materials to support this, but we need to think broadly.

The Greater Manchester Green Summit was hosted on 25 March 2019 and was used to launch Greater Manchester’s Five-Year Environment Plan. The plan was the result of 12-months’ consultation and collaboration with all parts of the Greater Manchester family. Click here to find out more about the event.

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