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University of Portsmouth launches new projects to tackle plastic pollution

The University of Portsmouth is launching two new projects to tackle the issue of plastic waste and pollution, both in the city and around the world.


The projects, which are part of the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative, will receive funding from the marine sustainability charity, The Flotilla Foundation.


The first is an ocean plastics policy hub, which will create a global network of national governments, organisations, business leaders, researchers, campaigners and the public to become the ‘go-to’ source of independent evidence and advice for better and more accountable ocean plastics policies.


The first part of the 'hub' project is to assess the effectiveness of existing plastics policy and identify the factors that contribute to successful policy. This information will be made available to policy makers and the general public to inform policy development and decision-making; and to empower the public to hold regulators and others accountable for good policy.


Steve Fletcher, Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy and Director of Revolution Plastics, said: “Policymakers seeking to tackle ocean plastic pollution are currently operating in an evidence vacuum when it comes to the effectiveness of plastic policies. To address this problem, we will undertake a major policy analysis of approximately 100 national-level, globally distributed ocean plastic policies, scrutinising and making transparent their effectiveness at reducing ocean plastic pollution.


“From this, we will work with policymakers from global organisations and governments to share the findings of the review and help them to develop and implement effective plastics policies.”


Flotilla Foundation funding has also been received for a citizen science project in partnership with Jetsam Tech, to reduce plastic waste in Portsmouth. The project will create what is believed to be the world’s first programme of city-wide plastic pollution surveys using a citizen science-based approach.

Through the project, members of the public will be able to use the Jetsam app to collect visual and location information about the volume, type and, potentially, sources of plastic pollution, in order to inform action to reduce plastic reaching the sea.


The University will work with institutions with relevant plastic waste and pollution responsibilities, including Portsmouth City Council, environmental regulators and waste contractors to use the survey findings to help reduce plastic use and divert plastic leakage into appropriate waste processing channels.


Jetsam will use the Zooniverse global crowd-sourced image analysis platform, which was developed by the University, to increase the analytical capability of the app so that it can be rolled out to other cities across the world.


Steve Bomford, Co-Founder of the Company of Makers who developed the Jetsam app, said: “We're thrilled to be collaborating with the University of Portsmouth on this project. The Flotilla Foundation funding will allow us to increase our data gathering and analysis capabilities, and further empower the community to take action, get involved and make real change happen.”


Tamar Matalon, Programme Director for the Flotilla Foundation, said: “Around 80 per cent of marine debris floating in the world’s oceans right now is plastic and the net amount of non-biodegradable matter entering the ocean only continues to grow. Without an immediate and substantial reduction in production and consumption of plastic, we can only temporarily solve a fraction of the problem, as more waste enters our ocean system than any current, non-reduction solution can handle.


“The Flotilla Foundation believes that in order to truly tackle the plastic crisis, we must address this problem from a range of different perspectives, which will ultimately allow us to be released from our dependency on plastics. We are excited to support these two projects by the University of Portsmouth, as they tackle two areas we believe require much more focus in the near future, if we are to achieve our goals - better policy making and higher citizen engagement in solutions.


“This partnership will add greatly to our strategy of complementing approaches for achieving best results, and we hope will present a model for wider action by national and international stakeholders.”

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