The Lives and Afterlives of Plastic

A nearly carbon-neutral conference held entirely online between June 26th and July 14th, 2017.

It’s our great pleasure to welcome participants from around the globe to the “Lives and Afterlives of Plastic” conference. This event was conceived as a forum to facilitate and an interdisciplinary dialogue on the social and environmental issues that surround plastic. We hope that the work done at this conference will encourage collaborations that cross boundaries between the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.

This conference is fully online, and aims to be nearly carbon neutral. While traditional conferences involve academics flying from all over the world to a specific venue, emitting huge amounts of fossil fuels into the stratosphere, an online format means that there are no carbon costs associated with transportation. There are still significant ecological issues surrounding the mineral extraction, manufacturing, waste disposal, and energy costs of the computational and networking technologies required for an online conference. However, unlike the carbon emissions associated with travel to a venue for a conference, the costs associated with computers, cameras, and undersea fibre-optic cables do not correspond to a one-off event; they will continue to be used long after the conference finishes. Indeed, when UCSB attempted to calculate the relative carbon costs of online and in-person conferences, their conclusion was that an online event reduced the carbon footprint by around 99%.

For each of the three weeks the conference is live, there will be one keynote speaker and several panels running. Each panel will have its own webpage consisting of the video presentations that have been submitted by presenters. Each panel will go live on the week scheduled in the conference programme. Each panel of video presentations will be accompanied by a comments section. The comments section for each panel will be open during the week that panel is programmed to go live. After that week, we are not expecting presenters to be checking the page for comments to respond to, and hope the focus of the conference moves towards the next set of panels. This means that presenters are able to receive more substantive feedback on their presentations than is common at traditional conferences. Following the third week of the conference, we will have a plenary discussion, with the aim of catalysing future collaborations and reflecting upon the format of the online conference.

We hope these discussions open up new conversations, perspectives and debates about the lives and afterlives of plastics.

‘Lives and Afterlives of Plastic’ Programme

Week 3: July 10 – July 14

Lives and Afterlives of Plastic Plenary Forum

Keynote Address

The Long-term Impact of Plastics on Human and Ecosystem Health
Professor Ian Shaw

Panel 8: Fabrics

Materials that Linger: A Geographical Biography of Polyester Fabrics
Elyse Stanes and Chris Gibson

Weaving Solutions to Microfibre Pollution: The Social Practices of Apparel Production, Consumption, Wearing, and Washing
Lisa Heinze

Panel 9: Waste Management

Addressing the Issue of Bio-Material Contamination in Commercial Composting
Jonathon Hannon

Evaluating Sustainable Practices at Christchurch City Council Events: Analysis of Waste Diversion and Event Attendees Perceptions of Compostable Service Ware Initiatives
Emma McCone

Plastic Debris: Recycling Options for Closing the Loop
Isabel Cañete Vela and Henrikke Baumann

Pollutants, Polymers and Pigments: The Material Contingencies of PET Bottles
Tatianna M. P. Silva

Panel 10: Public Awareness of Marine Plastics

Currents of Plastic Awareness: An Anthropological Study of NGO Efforts to Create Knowledge and Awareness of Plastic Pollution in the Ocean
Johanne Tarpgaard

Making Sense of Plastic Pollution: A UK Study of Images, Messages and Perceptions of (Micro)Plastics
Lesley Henderson and Christopher Green

Plastic Pollution in Marine Environments: Trans-Disciplinary Approaches Promoting Public Stewardship of Aquatic Environments
Luisa Galgani and Steven A. Loiselle

The Evidence to Change the Culture – Issues Around Marine Litter
Marie Russell and Colin Moffat

Panel 11: Materiality Two

Plastic Inheritance
Heather Davis

Toxicity and Technofossils: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue
Sy Taffel and Trisia Farrelly

Making Plastics Bio- Bioplastics’ Making
Damla Tonuk

Week 2: July 3 – July 7

Comments 16

    1. Thank you for this link Daniel. Welcome to the conference! The impact on contributors and visitors will no doubt be significant. Absolutely stunning! Is this a colleague of yours?

  1. Hello there ! Thank you so much for this awesome conference project, I am so happy to be able to follow it from Switzerland !

    I am a socio-anthropologist and artist, making creations with plastic waste I find on the shores of Lake Leman in Switzerland to raise awareness on waste in nature and consumerism issues in a more creative way.

    You can have a look at my work on !

    1. Hi Emilie. Thanks for sharing your work with us. I really enjoyed the still life photography. Hope you continue to enjoy the conference!

    2. HI Emily
      i like your work, especially the ‘compositions’ portfolio, i really like how the plastic items ‘mimic’ nature, or are mixed in with the surroundings, i feel this really gets the viewer thinking, and challenges idea about how much plastic there is in the evnironment Vs untouched nature. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hello from another visual artist working with plastic!

    I’ve just graduated from the MA Art and Science programme at Central Saint Martins in London, UK where I have been researching the effect of plastic on the environment. It’s such an important subject to raise awareness about, thank you for organising this.

    If you’d like to view my work please visit:

    I have been shortlisted for the MullenLowe NOVA award 2017, which is now open to the public for online voting. You can see all the shortlisted artists talking about their work and vote for your favourite until 4th July here: Winners will be announced on the 7th July.

    All best,

    1. Congratulations Hannah! I have just learned that you were awarded the MullenLowe NOVA Award Runner Up. Here is what they said about Hannah’s work:

      “MA Art and Science student Hannah Scott, whose project what goes around comes around, displays a sculptural side to the medium.

      Hannah’s project is both personal and open to the public, examining Britain’s consumer lifestyle and its relationship with the Arctic environment. In exploring “ways of visualising and communicating climate change…inspired by a fusion of my interests in science, nature and travel,” her work continually asks questions. “It challenges the audience to question the impact of their own lifestyle choices, central to this is an exploration of the ways art can effectively communicate scientific and environmental issues without being didactic or overly moralistic.”

      Hannah’s final piece references “current scientific research on climate change and plastic pollution,” coupled with the personal loss of both her parents. As a result the artist has created a unique practice, one that is “partly auto ethnographic, centring myself within my exploration as an observer and as one of the observed”.”

    1. Hi Regina. To participate in the conference, follow the links above that take you to the panel and keynote presentations. You’ll find the various presentations there, and then you can ask questions or participate in discussions in the comments thread for each panel.

  3. Hello !

    I am really enjoying the conference and am learning so much, but I’ve been very busy these days and unfortunately lack of time to see all the panels. Will they still be available after July 14th ?

    Thank you !


    1. Hi Emilie. Yes, the presentations will still be available after the conference finishes – so long as the presenters are happy for them to stay up and no one has said they aren’t – so you should be able to view them all when you have time. Best, Sy

  4. Hi-team,

    So interesting that you do this! We would love to show you your discussions in our community, Impact Hub Amsterdam, but how does it work? I have seen the program but there is no timetable

    Look forward to your answer,


    1. Post

      Kia ora Evelien.

      If you click on the green hyperlinks on this page you will be taken to the presentation. The conference was last year, but we have left all of the material online.

      If you do screen some of the presentations at the Impact Hub, we would love to hear how it goes! If you have any more questions feel free to send us an email

      Ngā mihi
      Lisa – PERC admin

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