Rutgers New Brunswick hosts Impacts of Microplastics in the Urban Environment Conference
Plastics pose serious adverse impacts to human and ecosystems due to their environmental persistence, their physical properties, and chemical makeup. Research scientists, entrepreneurs and business executives, government officials and students filled the Ludwig Global Learning Center on the Cook-Douglas Campus in late March to discuss the environmental, economic and regulatory issues related to the inundation of modern society by plastics.
Speakers emphasized the multiple aspects of controlling plastics in the environment—the economic importance of the plastic industry, emergence of the “throwaway society” consumer mentality, the convenience of cheap plastics— and the urgent need for the public and private sectors to partner in developing new products and approaches that will reduce the volume of plastic waste currently being produced.
The adverse effects of plastics and associated chemicals on biological systems have major data gaps that need to be examined in order to promulgate appropriate policy decisions to assist in better regulation of these compounds.
Entrepreneurs are being drawn to address these issues with new and innovative approaches. A highlight of the two day event was keynote speaker Tom Szaky, the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, based in Trenton, NJ. TerraCycle began at the Rutgers EcoComplex over a decade ago. It has now grown into a Worldwide company developing processes/partnerships to recycle plastic waste. It works worldwide with consumer product manufacturers to bring back the “milkman model” so companies “own” and reuse their product packaging.
The conference participants emphasized that product lifecycle innovations must be accompanied by new scientific and engineering research that educates lawmakers and the public, combined with increased regulatory actions that change current consumer and commercial behaviors.
Learn more about the conference, speakers, issues and next steps.