UKRI research contributes to report on how to achieve zero plastic waste

12 February 2019

A new report on how to eliminate plastic waste from the environment by a UK think tank has been informed by a diverse portfolio of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) research and innovation experts. The report proposes a way forward to reduce the amount of plastic waste into the environment produced by the UK.

Rubbish tip with bulldozer

Created by Policy Connect, it says an ambitious new roadmap is needed to deliver a coherent, circular and sustainable plastics policy that would boost infrastructure investment, cut global emissions and protect marine life.

The report, launched today at the Houses of Parliament, is backed by a cross-party group of politicians, including Labour's Anna McMorrin MP and Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change and former Conservative Environment Secretary.

Also speaking at the launch was Tamara Galloway, Professor of Ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter, who was part of a team that recently won the NERC Impact Award for its work on microplastic marine pollution.

For the full report, please view the Plastic Packaging Plan - Achieving zero waste exports (PDF) - external link.

This report is the culmination of the Zero Plastic Waste project, which was carried out by Policy Connect with support and research expertise provided by UKRI. Working with NERC and Innovate UK, it brought together expert voices in science, innovation, politics and industry.

The project was launched in June 2018 to engage parliamentarians and industry with research evidence to guide solutions to the problem of waste plastics in our environment. It drew upon a wealth of research and reports from a large number of organisations, as well as primary data collected through one-to-one interviews and two parliamentary roundtable discussions with experts from industry and diverse scientific disciplines, including environmental science, design and behavioural science.

NERC Executive Chair Duncan Wingham said:

We want to ensure that the best cutting-edge results of research and innovation, from across the broad range of sciences, is at the fingertips of parliamentarians. This will result in debate on the topic being informed by rigorous and independent science.

Policy Connect Chief Executive Jonathan Shaw said:

Policy Connect is excited to be releasing our new plastic packaging plan at such a vital time for resources and waste management for the UK. As a cross-party think tank, it is important our policy advice is evidence based and this latest report benefited greatly from expertise provided by UKRI. We look forward to working with UKRI in the future as we push forward to develop thought leadership across our policy areas.

As part of the Zero Plastic Waste project, NERC-funded University of Edinburgh PhD student Jacob Ainscough spent six months working as a research fellow at Policy Connect, where he collated the research evidence and authored the report.

He said the chance offered by NERC has been an opportunity to develop his career, explaining:

I have long been interested in environmental policy and politics. This internship was an opportunity to take a break from my PhD and gain experience working directly in policy development, applying my research skills to the increasingly pressing area of plastic waste management.

Policy Connect is uniquely positioned as a cross-party think tank with excellent links to Westminster through the all-party parliamentary groups, forums and commissions they run. Working with the organisation and its motivated and experienced staff gave me great insight into the workings of Parliament, and the opportunities to bring research into policymaking.

As my internship ended, I was keen to continue working in policy alongside completion of my PhD, with a view to pursuing a career in this direction. I will be continuing at Policy Connect part-time to work for their climate change team.

Watch NERC's new zero plastic waste video below to find out what can be done.

Further information

Jo Thompson
Head of External Communication
07864 601852


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

2. Policy Connect is a cross-party think tank improving people's lives by influencing policy. They collaborate with government and parliament, through their all-party parliamentary group, and across the public, private and third sectors to develop our policy ideas. Policy Connect work in health; education and skills; industry, technology and innovation; and sustainability policy.