SPS staff and students take part in Plastic Unwrapped

SPS joins Discovery Planet in RSC funded project to tackle plastic pollution at Margate beach

388 bottle caps. 154 shopping bags. 217 straws. 251 food packets. 600 pieces of unidentifiable plastic. What do these all have in common? They were found over two days by 600 people taking part in the Discovery Planet Plastic Unwrapped beach clean on Margate seafront.

These numbers are shocking. Over two days over 2200 pieces of plastic waste were collected from the beach. This doesn’t include the 564 cigarette stubs which are also part of the plastic pollution problem, or the hundreds of other metal, paper, wood, ceramic and glass items collected.

Dr Vicky Mason tells us more about the Plastic Unwrapped project and SPS’s involvement:

“Plastic Unwrapped started as an idea to highlight and start a conversation about plastic in the community of Thanet. Funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry and delivered by scientists at the University of Kent in collaboration with Discovery Planet, the idea of the four different workshops was to take a look at the local problem of plastic pollution, understand what it is about plastics that make it such an environmental issue, look at how we can all help by reducing, reusing and recycling more and then focus on the future of plastics and how science can help.

“After the beach clean, the second session looked at the characteristics of plastics and touched on why they are such a problem. Participants in the workshops did some hands on chemistry experiments looking at polymers, a key property of all plastics.

“The recycling session focused on the importance of sorting plastics into the correct types, with participants doing some plastic sorting for themselves. We also had the absolute pleasure of hearing from Daniel Webb about his fantastic project Everyday Plastic which involved collecting every piece of plastic he used for one whole year. This had a particular impact on myself, as it is not until you really take notice that you fully grasp how much plastic you use. Developing a series of science based workshops on plastics has really highlighted how much plastic I use myself, personally, but more importantly in my work doing outreach and engagement activities for the University of Kent. Developing the Plastic Unwrapped workshops without using any plastic I found extremely difficult, so I had to settle for using plastic I already had, and ensuring anything else that was purchased could be reused for other projects.

“Our final workshop will focus on the future of plastic materials by looking at some of the research being carried out in the School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent. So if you are interested in how you could become the next generation of scientists to tackle the problem, or finding out more about the current research going on at the University of Kent then please come along to the Hall by the Sea at Dreamland on Saturday 17th November for workshops on the hour every hour from 10am-3pm.”