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  • Plastic in the water
    09/12/16

    Renowned marine biologist examines solutions for growing ocean pollution at public lecture, October 11

Covestro Lectureship in Sustainability: Plastic Debris in the Ocean

With ever-growing global demand for plastic and single-use items, the problem of plastics in our oceans has grown immensely in recent decades. Professor Richard C. Thompson, one of the first marine biologists to document this environmental problem, will speak at the University of Minnesota at the Covestro Lectureship in Sustainability on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The lecture is free and open to the public; however, registration is required and available. Register Now!

The lecture, “Plastic Debris in the Ocean: Are There Solutions to this Global Environmental Problem?” is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Bell Museum of Natural History (Room 100), 10 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis.

Debris in our oceans, particularly plastic items, is a growing environmental problem. This garbage is widely distributed at the sea surface, on the seabed, and on shorelines. About 75 percent of this litter is plastic with other materials such as glass and metal representing a small fraction of the problem. Nearly 700 species of marine life are known to encounter this litter, with many reports of physical harm resulting from entanglement in and ingestion of plastic.

There is recent recognition that we need to change the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic items. Plastic litter does not belong in our oceans, and the numerous societal benefits derived from our every day use of plastics can be achieved without discarding plastic waste into the environment. One solution to two of plastic’s major environmental problems, our unsustainable use of fossil fuels in plastic production and the accumulation of litter, could lie in reusing end-of-life plastics as the raw materials for new productions. 

About the speaker

Marine biologist Richard Thompson

Thompson is a professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University, UK. He specializes in the ecology of shallow water habitats. He obtained his first degree from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992, followed by a doctorate from Liverpool University in 1996. 

Much of his work over the last decade has focused on marine debris with numerous publications on this topic. In 2004, his team reported on the presence of microplastics in the environment in the journal Science. Subsequent research examined the extent to which microplastics were retained upon ingestion and potential for microplastics to transport pollutants to organisms. 

Thompson was lead guest editor for a 200-page volume of the scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, focusing on “Plastics the Environment and Human Health.” He is a co-author of the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive text on marine litter and has recently prepared reports on this topic for the United Nations Global Environment Facility. In 2014, he presented his research to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his Our Ocean meeting in Washington. His recent research contributed to parliamentary discussions on legislation to prohibit the use of microbeads in cosmetics. For additional information about Professor Thompson visit his website.

This lecture is sponsored by Covestro, a world-leading manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials for key industries. In addition to Covestro, this public lecture is sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Polymers, the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.