Sustainable Materials Talk Series: “Future of materials is plastic-free” with Sian Sutherland

Sustainable Materials Talk Series: “Future of materials is plastic-free” with Sian Sutherland

Posted 3 February 2020 by Katie Kubrak

Today, as part of our Material Monday articles, we publish highlights from the talk by Sian Sutherland, in which she proves why the “Future of materials is plastic-free”.

Sian co-founded A Plastic Planet with Frederikke MagnussenIn, which is a social impact non-profit with a single goal – to ignite and inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap. A Plastic Planet work with global brands, retailers, educators, legislators and Governments to reduce the use of indestructible plastic to package our perishable food and drink.

Their first campaign asked supermarkets worldwide to give customers the choice to buy plastic- and guilt-free in a Plastic Free Aisle. The world’s first plastic-free aisle has been launched by the Dutch chain Ekoplaza in Amsterdam where 700 products became available without plastic packaging. This campaign also rapidly became the No.1 initiative in the UK, offering a genuine solution to the plastic pollution crisis.

In her lecture, Sian, draws attention to key facts and figures connected to plastic use, disposal and pollution. These include:

  • 91% of all plastic is used once (i.e. single use) and thrown away leaving only 9% out of 6.3 billion tonnes recycled; and even then, probably only once
  • Soil micro plastic pollution is up to 23 times higher than marine pollution
  • 4.1 billion plastic carrier bags are still used in the UK despite charge introduced on 5th October 2015 (please read more here)
  • Every UK household has on average 44 bags for life, production of which increased plastic use and production
  • 66% of plastic waste in the UK is exported as we do not have enough infrastructure to process it. This waste used to go to China then to Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and most recently to Myanmar and Mozambique.
  • Plastic production is set to quadruple by 2030

Alarmingly, despite its pervasive aforementioned health and climate risks, plastic production is expected to reach over 600 million tons per year by 2025. Respectively, Sian focuses on this issue because its effects are devastating our nature and cityscapes. In her work, she aims to prove that the “the old way of consumption is dead” and encourage people to change their purchasing behaviours. The reason being is that she believes the that the only way we will see a meaningful change on a large scale is through:

  • Governments (through legislation and taxation)
  • Encouraging positive consumer behaviours (through public campaigns and initiatives)
  • Brands taking ownership of their packaging produce and waste streams (through better management of resources)

With significant worldwide media attention, public support and engagement with industry, Sian and Frede lead A Plastic Planet to reimagine packaging design, which is driven by inspirational plastic-free solutions.

To find out more about plastic-free future of materials, please follow the link here. Also, make sure to watch the other “Sustainable Materials” talks available on our YouTube channel featuring experts such as Katie Kubrak (Nirvana CPH), Gary Tee (TIPA) and Julian Ellerby (FranklinTiill). Finally, stay tuned for upcoming talk launches including “Sustainable Production” and “Sustainable Innovation”. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here or email us at