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Lead academic: Professor Peter Hopkinson (Business School)
Lead academic: Michele Miller (Business School)
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal

Ocean Plastic: Turning the tide through the circular economy

Challenge overview

The tide of plastics in the Ocean is rising rapidly creating damage to marine ecosystems, people’s livelihoods and wider socio-ecological damage. Exeter academics are at the forefront of finding solutions to this global problem. You will meet them and hear from them during the Challenge, as well as hearing from individuals from businesses, NGOs and Government involved in ‘Reversing the Plastic Tide’. You will be asked to develop and propose solutions to support a transition to a New Plastics Economy based on the principles of the circular economy.

2018 summary

Students on this Challenge went on two field trips: a beach clean at Westward Ho! beach and a visit to the Exeter Marine Recycling Facility. These trips gave them real life experience of the plastics issue and allowed them to visualise the processes in the cycle of plastic use and its dispersion into the environment.

Students heard from some of the world leading scientists at Exeter studying Ocean Plastics including Professor Tamara GallowayProfessor Brenden Godley, and speakers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation leading the Global New Plastics Economy programme and demonstrating how the Circular Economy can work in practice. They also heard from global businesses including Coca Cola (who are taking serious action to remove fossil plastic packaging from their products), and local businesses and organisations taking action to reduce and remove plastics from the Devon and Cornwall economy and clean up existing waste.

Taking inspiration from the trips and speakers, students came up with group project ideas to try to tackle the problem. Projects ranged from recycling schemes, to ways for plastic production and use to follow the principles of a circular economy. On Friday morning, they presented their work to an expert panel and other students on their Challenge. They then showcased it later in the day at an exhibition in the Forum, which was attended by students from all Challenges, University staff and members of the general public.  

Here is the 2018 Ocean Plastic Challenge Timetable 

Student projects

Student projects from the 2018 Challenge are shown below.

Refillables: Refillable drinks/food containers with a reward scheme and app for people to see what they have recycled

Plastic IQ: A campaign to raise awareness about single use plastic in everyday life

Green Ocean: An app game to encourage recycling on campus with rewards for achieving higher levels

A new traffic light system for single use plastic in food packaging as a visual aid for consumers, showing how the product affects plastic issues.

Infinity: A new system of product use, where the product is returned to the company that issued it

Rexecycle: An online campaign educating people about common misconceptions of what can be recycled. 


Plasticspropoly: The creation of a new charity, with the aim of helping existing businesses to meet goals of zero waste or plastic reduction

Crapp: An app showing recycling stations, giving ‘Ecopoints’ for recycling which can be spent in the local economy

Flow: An app to motivate and educate students about reusing and recycling


David Attenborough
Clip from Blue Planet