12 January 2023
Our first 180th anniversary lecture of 2023 looked to the future, in particular the changes needed to tackle the global climate emergency.
In his lecture, Carlos Monreal, Founder and CEO of Plastic Energy, one of the world’s leading chemical recycling companies, explained how new technology can convert hard-to-recycle waste plastic into new plastic suitable for food use. Carlos accepted that plastic usually has ‘a bad reputation’ but shared his view that it is in fact a great material without which we couldn’t do many of the things we do today. The problem with plastic is that the waste isn’t currently managed well, with only 14% currently being recycled. The creation of a profitable ‘circular economy’ of plastic will divert plastic waste away from incineration and landfill, including landfills in countries where there is little regulation in how this is handled, which often import waste from richer countries.
With the daily production of plastic predicted to rise from its current one million tons per day to between five and six million tons in 2050, Carlos explained how Plastic Energy’s technology works and how it can be part of the solution to this growing problem. But it’s not a solution in itself, not least because plastic is only one part of the problem. Carlos reminded his audience that 50-100 years ago, a well-implemented circular economy existed as earlier generations handed clothes down from child to child and repaired rather than replaced items.
Carlos, who is a Woldingham parent, called on students, as the next generation, to demand change and force things to happen. Hearing about his role at the forefront of changing things for the better can only have been inspiration to do so.