REPORT ON UNWRAPPED CONFERENCE 12-14 June 2019 Shirra Freeman, Haifa University
20. 6. 2019
Problems related to plastics and food packaging include environmental contamination from production and waste and human exposure to toxic chemicals from using plastic articles such as those in food packaging or from plastic waste in the environment. Finding solutions to these problems requires an understanding of the scientific aspects of the problem and coordinated efforts by policy makers, manufacturers and consumers to create safer products and reduce quantities of plastics produced, consumed and disposed of. But, coordinated efforts are the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, Upstream, a San Francisco-based plastics consumer advocacy organization and the Food Packaging Forum, a Zurich-based foundation for science communication collaborated to bring together three important stakeholder groups – the scientific, advocacy and policy communities.
Attendance at the event was by invitation and the content was split between scientific presentations and interactive strategy sessions. Shirra Freeman, from GoJelly’s Haifa University team moderated the session on microplastics (13-6-2019). Speakers at the session were Martin Wagner (Norwegian University for Science and Technology), Tamara Galloway (University of Exeter) and Martin Scheringer (ETH Zurich and Masaryk University), three leaders the fields of ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry researching micro and nano plastics in aquatic environments. During the strategy sessions (14-6-2019), the work within the GoJelly! project was described and discussed, and considerable interest was expressed in the idea of the jellyfish mucus microplastics filter. Very few participants were aware of the potential role of wastewater treatment in reducing the flow of microplastics to marine environments and UNWRAPPED was an ideal venue for presenting GoJelly!’s work.
During the conference and in the days following, Shirra has had meetings with Martin Scheringer, Linda Birnbaum, the director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Jen Jackson, manager Toxics Reduction at the municipality of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment and Jane Muncke, director of the Food Packaging Forum. She will be pursuing these and other contacts. Beginning in October 2018, Shirra had also served as a member of the UNWRAPPED steering committee, mainly in developing the microplastics contents (e.g., ensuring that there was a scientific session, inviting speakers, developing promotional materials). As a result of this, GoJelly! received formal credit within the conference materials. In addition, there were multiple opportunities to network and promote the project’s work on marine microplastics and on wastewater treatment.