23 March 2022

Marine litter: Are there solutions to this global environmental challenge?

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Online webinar 16:00 GMT

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  • With plastic debris widely distributed on shorelines, on the sea surface and sea bed, some 700 species are known to encounter marine litter, with many coming to harm.
  • Plastic has many societal benefits, can these benefits be realised without having a negative impact on the environment?
  • The solution, in part, lies in reducing usage and recycling end-of-life plastics.


During this talk, on an issue that is impacting everyone around the world, Professor Thompson will set out the argument that realising the benefits of plastic, without having a detrimental impact on the environment, requires systemic changes in the way we produce use and dispose of plastic. 


Professor Thompson will highlight that, underpinned by scientific evidence and media attention, the consensus is that current levels of plastic pollution are unacceptable. Accelerating progress towards a more responsible use of plastic now requires focus to shift to the evidence that will help prioritise solutions.  However, a lack of clarity round the efficacy of proposed solutions is also a creating a challenge that must be dealt with if the plastics problem is to be truly addressed.


Professor Richard Thompson

Marine Institute School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth

Professor Richard Thompson is Director of the Marine Institute School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth. He is a world-leading marine scientist and world expert on plastic pollution, founding, and heading, Plymouth University’s International Marine Litter Research Institute. In 2004 he published the first paper describing the accumulation of microscopic fragments of plastic in the environment, calling them ‘microplastics.’

Professor Thompson and his team have been at the forefront of microplastics research showing its global distribution, the potential for transfer from the gut to the circulatory system, and its role in the transport of chemicals. This pioneering work was pivotal in recognition of microplastic contamination in policies, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Professor Thompson was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to marine science.


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