Using research interests in sustainable materials and practices to give students a meaningful taste of the pressing sustainability agenda

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


The waste generated by a medical setting (pharmacy, clinic, operating theatre) is both distinct and similar to that generated in the household. This household or general “city” waste is known a municipal solid waste (MSW). Much of this waste in wealthier counties is dominated by plastic and paper [1]. Despite some moderate recycling for some materials the rest generally, heads for land-fill disposal or incineration creating its own, now clearly visible environmental consequences. In the UK medical sector, plastic, paper and cardboard and mixed materials predominate as the materials used most frequently [2]. A clear preference for medical products based on paper, plastic and other (mixed) materials is manifested in their greater use in wealthier nations such as the UK and Canada. A greater reliance of products made from and using these material carries with it a greater risk of environmental impact, such as climate change [3,4] or persistent microscopic pollution. These products are energy intense and supply a large carbon footprint to their resourcing and manufacture further supplemented by high levels of atmospheric pollution during their creation and recycling. Very few plastics recycle agreeably [5]. Plastic varieties only really manufactured in large quantities since the 1950's pose somewhat of an existential long-term threat because they can persist in miniature form in the environment for centuries, according to recent predictions and this has implications for human health [6]. Research projects linking the plastics industry, agriculture, waste handlers and academia undertaken with Brighton students from sixth from to doctorate aims to improve recyclability and reduce environmental persistence, whilst maintaining function. On the way making use of waste products that inform students of the agenda of sustainability and circularity needed to prevent impending disaster and push the STEM agenda and skill-base.
1. Joseph, B., James, J., Kalarikkal, N. & Thomas, S. (2021) Advances in Industrial & Engineering Polymer Res.: 4: 199-208.
2. Campbell, M. & Pierce, J.M.T. (2015) BJA Education 15(4): 173-179.
3. Kakadellis, S. & Harris, Z.M. (2020) Journal of Cleaner Production, 274: 122831
4. Derwent, R.G., Utembe, S,R., Jenkin, M.E., Khan, M.A.H. & Shallcross, D.E. (2023) Atmospheric Environment, 306: 119817.
5. Sarker, D.K. (2020). Packaging Technology and Engineering: Pharmaceutical, Medical and Food Applications, John Wiley: Chichester: pp544.
6. Leslie, H.A., van Velzena, M.J.M., Brandsman S.H., Velthakaab, A.R., Garcia-Vallejoc, J.J. & Lamoree, M.H. (2022) Environment International, 163: 117.
Period2 Feb 2024
Event titlePedagogic Research Conference, University of Brighton 2024
Event typeConference
LocationBrighton, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • sustainability
  • sustainable futures
  • Circular Economy