Policy Commission: A Future for Sustainable Plastics

The plastics waste problem is one of the largest challenges we face today, yet many solutions provided to date have been ‘quick-fix’ in nature, largely focussing on eradicating plastic in its entirety. Whilst these solutions are well meaning, they lack the nuanced insight into the wide-ranging use of plastic in our everyday lives (e.g., healthcare, construction, automotive industry) and the breadth of positive and negative impacts associated with this.

The Birmingham Plastics Network Policy Commission brings together voices from across the plastics landscape to develop a set of well informed, evidence-based, policy recommendations which will promote a sustainable future for plastics in the UK, enhancing the positive contributions that plastics make to our lives whilst minimising the negative impacts across their life cycle. We engage with the plastics waste problem holistically, comprehensively, considering economic, environmental, social and ecological impacts, developing comprehensive and evidence-based recommendations for an issue which has seen the same low-impact solutions and challenges be presented for decades.


Read the Policy Commission: A Future for Sustainable Plastics

Chaired by Baroness Meacher, Crossbench Peer for the House of Lords, our Commissioners are experts in plastics for their relevant sector. Their broad expertise and insights result in thoughtful, evidence-based recommendations to government.

Download the full Policy Commission report (22.01 Mb)


Our Commissioners introduce the Policy Commission from the Birmingham Plastics Network


A call for systematic change

At the Birmingham Plastics Network, we know that to achieve the true systemic change required to resolve the plastics waste problem, we cannot work alone. This is why we prioritise collaborative working methods, such as this Policy Commission. A Policy Commission is a tried and tested method to achieving systemic change within and beyond Government, and the University of Birmingham has a track record of delivering them successfully. Utilising the knowledge and input of a range of stakeholders from different backgrounds, we will possess the leverage we need to influence plastics policy through a systemic lens, creating impact for a range of beneficiaries and not just one cluster of society.

A Future for Sustainable Plastics: UK Public and Political Attitudes

The UK public are more concerned about the threat to society posed by plastic pollution than the coronavirus pandemic or future pandemics, terrorism, economic collapse, natural disasters, and artificial intelligence. In the mind of the UK public, plastic pollution is a top-three perceived threat to society, alongside war and climate change.

Read our report and survey findings.

Our Commissioners

Each of our Commissioners are experts in plastics for their relevant sector and provide us with a broad range of expertise and insights to ensure that the Commission covers the appropriate breadth and depth in order to recommend thoughtful, evidence-based policy interventions to government.

As well as this, we are privileged to have Baroness Meacher, Crossbench Peer for the House of Lords, as the Chair for this Commission. Baroness Meacher is passionate about the impacts of plastics in society and advocates strongly for the need for new and improved interventions in this space. 

  • Baroness Meacher, Chair
  • Dr Sally Beken, Founder and Lead at UK Circular Plastics Network
  • Professor Andrew Dove, Sustainable Polymer Chemist and Co-Lead at Birmingham Plastics Network, University of Birmingham
  • Simon Ellin, Previous CEO of the Recycling Association
  • Professor Fern Elsdon-Baker, Director of the Research Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society, and Co-Lead at Birmingham Plastics Network, University of Birmingham
  • Judit Guerra-Falcon, Technical Affairs and Circular Economy Manager, Plastics Europe
  • Professor Stefan Krause, Professor of Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry, and member of the Birmingham Plastics Network, University of Birmingham
  • Keith James, Head of Policy & Insights at WRAP
  • Professor Richard Lampitt, Professor at National Oceanography Centre, Biogeochemist
  • Brian Lodge, Director of Packaging at British Plastics Federation
  • Professor John McGeehan, Independent Consultant for plastics recycling, upcycling, and redesign
  • Asim Shah, Managing Director at S2C: Supply Chain Sustainability Consulting
  • Professor Ian Thomson, Professor of Accounting and Sustainability, University of Dundee, and member of the Birmingham Plastics Network

What's next for the Commission?

The Commission has concluded its evidence-giving sessions with a wide pool of stakeholders. A launch event will be held to share the policy recommendations of the Commission, and the full Policy Commission Report, in March 2024 at the House of Commons.

If you have any questions about the Policy Commission, or the Network, please get in touch with plasticsnetwork@contacts.bham.ac.uk, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Read our Call to Action Report, a catalyst for the development of our Commission activity and our report 'A Sustainable Future for Plastics: UK Public and Political Attitudes'.