top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah Anelay - Clear Public Space

Pandemic Plastics - A Burning Issue: An Event by Clear Public Space and the Frontline Club

October saw the first in a series of environmental debates, organised and curated by Clear Public Space, in conjunction with the Frontline Club. The focal point of the event series is to encourage education and open space for debate on the burning environmental issues of the day. It is the frontline for all of us: our micro-decisions and small behaviours culminate in macro problems (#environmentalfrontline)

Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere surpasses any level recorded in the entirety of human history, topping the highest point previously recorded in 800,000 years of data by more than 100 parts per million. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, 1 million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades. The UN has stated that current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will make impossible countries’ attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals- specifically, those related to related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15). In 2018, it was reported that it would take 1.7 earths to replenish the natural resources we will collectively use up as a planet. 

Our micro-decisions, our behaviours, our consumption is hastening our own demise on Planet Earth.

On 22nd October, Clear Public Space X Frontline Club streamed the first in a series of environmental discussions. With the title, ‘Pandemic Plastic – A Burning Issue?’, the panel investigated: By Burning Waste, Are We Burning Our Future? The heated debate was moderated by Jonathan Leake, former environment editor at The Sunday Times. The event saw brilliant arguments presented by the EU Commission’s Professor Helmut Maurer, industry-voice Jacob Hayler and environmental campaigner Georgia Elliott-Smith.

The panellists were invited to discuss the issue of waste incineration and ‘Energy from Waste’ (EfW). Georgia is currently taking the UK Government to court regarding the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, whilst Jacob claimed that the damage and risks surrounding EfW plants are minimal and the larger, more pertinent problem is landfill. Professor Maurer argued that the problem is systemic, that it is product packaging that must first be redesigned and innovated to allow for widespread recycling.  

Across the globe, EfW (incineration) plants have become ubiquitous. Within the last decade, the number of EfW plants in the UK has mushroomed to around 50. Globally, capital expenditure in the EfW sector is forecast to triple from 2017’s US$12.9 billion estimate to US$40 billion by 2023. Thousands of EfW plants are in phases of construction, and yet they emit immense quantities of Co2.   

The growth of EfW is ‘peak paradox’. The UK is legally bound to achieve a net-zero target by 2050 however our recycling rates have stalled and we continue to try burn (and export) our way out of our waste pandemic.  

Professor Maurer said afterwards that it reminded him of debates that happened in Germany 30 years ago. 

Watch the short synopsis video to get a taste, and join us on the 19th November for the second #environmentalfrontline debate “A Sea Of Scandals”.

Journalist Charles Clover will steer the debate on the practices of overfishing, legally endorsed by the government in what are marine protected areas. Panellists will be confirmed closer to the date so make sure to follow us on Twitter for updates.  

The Sea of Scandals is another complete paradox that might even cap the first. Clear Public Space says: by learning about the issues, we have a better chance in resolving them. 


bottom of page