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Sian Sutherland: “Innovating the Business of Plastics”

September 21, 2023

(Conversation recorded on August 31st, 2023)

Show Summary

On this episode, Nate is joined by Sian Sutherland, a leader in the movement towards reducing the overconsumption of plastic and its waste. The modern era is dependent on fossil fuels for many reasons – one of the most covertly ubiquitous ones being plastic. Everyday we are surrounded by it – encasing our food, woven in the threads of our clothes, and even permeating into the water that we drink. How do we begin to break off this addiction to the convenience and utility of plastics? How does this connect to the larger implications of a society embedded in a linear, consumption-based system dependent on growth? What role can industry, governments, and individuals each play in creating structural shifts to reduce our reliance on plastic – and ultimately return to a slower, more circular way of life?

About Sian Sutherland

Sian Sutherland is Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organizations tackling the plastic crisis. More recently, she also co-founded PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering the 160m global creatives to design waste out at the source. Sian was awarded the Female Marketer of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and British Inventor of the Year. In 2023 at the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, A Plastic Planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing expert scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health. Passionately pro-business and solutions focused, Sian believes the plastic crisis gives mankind a rare gateway to change both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations.

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Show Notes & Links to Learn More

PDF Transcript

00:35 – Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet, Plastic Free

05:13 – Blue Planet II, David Attenborough

09:55 – TGS Episodes on Plastic: Shanna Swan, Martin Scheringer

10:38 – Toxicity of plastics

10:57 – 13,000 chemicals are used to make plastic

12:01 – We consume a credit cards worth of plastic each week

12:08 – Plastic found in placenta, twice as much plastic in baby poop than adult poop

12:16 – Plastic in blood

13:09 – Endocrine disrupting chemicals

14:40 – Destruction of soil

15:55 – How quickly we create new chemicals

20:20 – Plastic never disappears, only degrades into smaller pieces

20:55 – How we use plastic

21:20 – Dopamine

21:29 – Minimalism Documentary

22:50 – Fast fashion

23:52 – Plastics in clothing

24:33 – Technical clothing made from natural fibers

26:38 – King Charles long-lasting clothes and shoes

28:35 – Marie Kondo

29:11 – You are the sum part of the 5 people you spend the most time with

29:40 – Recycling is not really a solution to plastic consumption

30:20 – Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, and glass and paper are good for recycling

30:40 – Plastic can only be recycled once or twice

31:55 – 5% of plastic in the US is recycled

32:12 – Wealthy nations export their plastic waste

32:56 – Resource materialism

33:03 – Waste Imperialism

34:18 – [40%] of UK waste exports go to Turkey

34:59 – Atacama Desert, Clothing pollution

35:29 – Ghana town that receives 15 million items of discarded clothing per week

39:22 – 1 trillion plastic sachets are produced every year

48:55 – France mandate the 20% of grocery store space be dedicated to refill

51:26 – 160 million creatives globally

54:35 – Plastic and healthcare

55:04 – 40% of plastic is used for packaging

55:50 – Clothes washing and microplastics

57:55 – Localizing and shortening supply chains



Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: plastic, plastic pollution, plastic pollution solutions