Sussex Lecturer plays key role in new independent documentary exposing extent of UK’s plastic problem

Volunteers work to clear up the plastic left on Brighton beach following a big c

Volunteers work to clear up the plastic left on Brighton beach following a big city event

A University of Sussex lecturer is helping to highlight the extent of the UK’s plastic problem in a new, feature documentary investigating the damaging effects plastic pollution is continuing to have on our health, lifestyle and wildlife.

Claire Potter, a Senior Lecturer in Design and Engineering at Sussex, is a leading commentator in the Plastic Warriors documentary film, which has its first UK cinema screening this evening (Wednesday, 21 September) at the Depot in Lewes. Claire will also be sitting on the post-screening Q&A panel, alongside filmmaker Poppy Chandler and campaigner Ella Daish, founder of End Period Plastic, to answer further questions about the plastic crisis, and what can be done to solve it.

The film tells the story of "the Plastic Warriors"; from eminent scientists and campaigners on the front line, to the innovators and designers, working on solutions to solve this global plastic crisis that it claims politicians and governments are largely ignoring. Taking audiences on a UK-wide journey to deep sea coral reefs, basking shark hotspots, scenic coastal areas and huge seabird colonies, the documentary lays bare the magnitude of the UK’s plastic crisis, the devastating impact that plastic pollution is having on the nation’s species and natural surroundings, and what it could mean for wildlife and human health long term if we don’t start acting now.

It also exposes the main culprits of plastic pollution, and what can be done to take back control of an environmental crisis that has wrapped itself into each stage of everyday consumption - even making its way inside every human body.

"Currently, approximately nine million tonnes of plastic waste enters our oceans every year, which is the equivalent of one truck being emptied into the ocean every minute across the globe," says Claire. "More devastatingly, that number is expected to double in the next decade. You then have billions of microplastics raining down on London, at a rate 20 times higher than any other city in the world, with the potential environmental and health impact of that massive. And these are just two of the many scary stats highlighted in Plastic Warriors.

"It may seem bleak, but actually there is a huge amount of hope. Plastic Warriors talks to the people involved with cutting-edge research on monitoring plastics; the experts who aren’t only laying bare the reality of our situation, but also the solutions. The hope is that it will shock and inspire people into action. Even if that’s just small, every day changes, collectively that can make a big difference."

The documentary also interviews Michael Beverland, Professor of Marketing at Sussex, who shares what he believes living sustainably really means, and further features Sussex Product Design alumni Lucy Hughes, whose invention MarinaTex, a home compostable bioplastic made from fish waste and red algae that can be used to replace single use plastic packaging that she invented while studying at the university, and which won the James Dyson Award in 2019.

"This is a really beautiful, really educational film," says Plastic Warriors director Mike Wafer. We chose to do this documentary because a lot of British press focus is on how bad everyone else is doing, and overlooks the phenomenal problem we also have here in the UK. For example, we’re one of the biggest and fastest consumers of single-use plastic in Europe - but that rarely gets mentioned.

"We wanted to showcase all these amazing people who are already fighting this fight - the activists, the researchers, the scientists, the designers - and incentivise others to support them, to educate everyone and encourage us all to do our bit. Plastic pollution is part of the bigger climate change fight, and it’s only going to get worse unless we all start taking action."

Plastic Warriors premieres at The Depot cinema in Lewes at 17.45 tonight with the post-screening Q&A feature Claire taking place immediately after. For more details, or to book tickets, visit www.lewesdepot.org.


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