Leaves on plastic with green tint overlaid
  • TwentyTwo, The Westin Ottawa, 11 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4, Canada

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Alternatives and substitutes: if plastics are the problem, is switching to different polymers or materials the solution? 

Perspectives from academia, policy and industry – a panel discussion.

Friday 26 April 2024
13:00–15:00 (lunchtime break of INC-4 Plastics Treaty negotiations)
TwentyTwo, The Westin Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Please note that this is an in-person event only
Biodegradable polymers, recycled polymers, aluminium, glass, banana leaves, jute, algae and crustacean shells are all highlighted as potential alternatives and substitutes to help reduce plastic pollution. But is there clear evidence they are genuinely better and, if so, in which contexts?
Including a panel discussion with independent scientists, industry and policy makers, the event will be chaired by Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, Director of the Marine Institute, University of Plymouth.
Hosted in the elegant TwentyTwo at the Westin Ottawa, enjoy 270º panoramic views of Parliament Hill, the Ottawa River and the Gatineau Hills beyond and an unmissable three-course hot lunch and handcrafted mocktails.
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Chair: Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS

Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS is Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth.
Richard is a world-leading marine scientist and is at the forefront of pioneering research into the causes and effects of marine litter. A decade-and-a-half on from his seminal paper, which for the first time described the accumulation of ‘microplastics’ in the oceans, he has mapped out much of the territory upon which our understanding of both the impacts of plastics and the potential solutions are based. He founded and heads the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, which has charted the global distribution of microplastics from Arctic sea ice to the deep seas.
In 2019, the University was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for the pioneering research of Richard and his colleagues on marine microplastics pollution and its impact on the environment and changing behaviour.
In 2023 Richard was awarded the Blue Planet Prize and in 2022 the Volvo Environment Prize for raising societal awareness of global ocean microplastics.

Henrique Pacini

Henrique Pacini is an economist at UNCTAD in Geneva, working on trade & circular economy. He contributes to the GBP 24.6 million UK-Aid funded Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) program since 2018, focusing on reducing manufacturing and plastic pollution in Africa, South Asia, and the Pacific. He has degrees from University of Sao Paulo, Hochschule Bremen, and KTH, and a post-doc on plastic scrap trade from Harvard, where he co-chaired the University’s first Circular Economy Symposium. Pacini has authored over 30 peer-reviewed articles on environment, trade, and development.

Isabel Jarrett

Isabel Jarrett leads Pew’s work to reduce plastic pollution through international trade measures and efforts to advance legislation to curb microplastic emissions in the EU.
Jarrett previously led Pew’s campaign to reduce harmful fisheries subsidies, working in collaboration with the World Trade Organization to reduce the billions of dollars in government payments that contribute to unsustainable fishing. She also launched Pew’s global shark conservation efforts in Asia; contributed to implementing landmark measures governing international trade in sharks and rays at international forums; and was an associate manager on the executive team that executes Pew’s projects and advances the institution’s mission.

Dr Lev Neretin

FAO is both developing a Voluntary Code of Conduct for the sustainable use and management of plastics in agriculture and actively supporting ILBI negotiations to ensure that food security, as well as food and agriculture perspectives, are accounted for in the future treaty. We advocate for the use of a circular approach to the sustainable management of plastics in agriculture. Therefore, issues related to bio-based alternatives and substitutes for "traditional" plastic products are crucial to these efforts. To FAO, sustainability domain includes four aspects of food security and nutrition: better and more efficient production, improved nutrition, a healthier environment, and enhanced livelihoods, all while respecting the needs of the most vulnerable in the agri-food value chain.
Dr Neretin will be sharing his perspective on biodegradable plastics in agriculture and fisheries.

Jane Muncke

Jane is the Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Food Packaging Forum (FPF), a charitable foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland. She founded FPF in 2012 to share high-quality scientific information about health and environmental impacts of food contact materials, such as food packaging. In 2024, FPF has grown to a team of 8 scientists who, with diverse external partners and collaborators, have developed several impactful, publicly available, evidence-based tools, for example the Understanding Packaging Scorecard or the Database on extractable and migrating food contact chemicals, FCCmigex. Jane is also part of the PlastChem project team and a member of the Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty. Jane has a PhD in environmental toxicology and an MSc in environmental science, both from ETH Zurich.

Dr Winnie Courtene-Jones

Winnie is an environmental scientist, whose research focuses on understanding the environmental fate and prevalence of conventional and biodegradable plastics, their effect on organisms and ecosystems, to provide  appropriate science-led interventions
Since completing her PhD in 2019 (Microplastics in the deep sea ecosystem), Winnie has worked within the International Marine Litter Research Unit, at the University of Plymouth, first as 'eXXpedition science lead' researching microplastic pollution in the ocean globally (2019-2021) and now on the NERC-funded 'BIO PLASTIC RISK ' project. Here Winnie investigates the environmental fate of biodegradable plastics and their associated impacts on organisms and ecosystem function. 
Her scientific studies have led her to research plastic pollution in a variety of terrestrial and marine environments, from the coastline to some of the most remote parts of our planet including the deep sea and oceanic gyres.
Winnie has authored a number of publications and technical reports, has spoken at International conferences and at UK and European Parliament. Additionally she has extensive and varied science outreach-communication experience, giving interviews in multiple formats including TV, radio and print, recording podcasts, as well as participating in numerous events 

Connected to The Shaw Centre – how to get there

Getting to TwentyTwo at The Westin Ottawa is easy for those attending INC-4 as the hotel is connected to The Shaw Centre. Simply make your way to floor two of The Shaw Centre and follow directions to The Westin Ottawa. You can always use the maps below to help you.

Evidence-informed solutions

Over the past two decades, we have developed a detailed understanding of the impacts of plastic marine litter and driving a solutions-based approach.

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Agriculture is project to be one of the industries contributing biodegradable plastics to the environment (Credit Getty Images)

BIO-PLASTIC-RISK: biodegradable bioplastics – assessing environmental risk

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Future Fibres Network+: decarbonising the fashion industry

Supporting the United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution

"Twenty years ago there was denial that plastics presented an environmental issue. We now have that consensus exemplified in the UN Global Plastics Treaty. That’s a mandate for global change. What is critical now is that we have the same quality of independent scientific evidence to guide the way to solutions as we have had in defining the problem. The role of science is critical in addressing environmental challenges or we will repeat mistakes of the past."
Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, Director of the Marine Institute
United Nations

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea. 
Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions.
Marine litter

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