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Webinar: Five Misperceptions Surrounding the Environmental Impacts of Single-Use Plastic

Event Type
Shelie A. Miller
July 28, 20221:00pm - 2:00pm


Plastic is everywhere. Large amounts of energy and fossil resources are required to produce the massive quantities of plastic we consume every year, while improperly disposed plastic waste can contribute to damage of sensitive ecosystems. There is much that can and should be done to promote a circular plastics economy and reduce plastic’s overall impact. Nevertheless, it is possible for well-intended solutions to create unintended consequences, exacerbating other environmental issues while attempting to minimize the impact of plastic. This talk will explore five commonly held perceptions that do not correspond with life cycle studies and discuss the importance of taking a holistic life cycle approach to future efforts to address the environmental impacts of plastic. The talk will present evidence and discuss the nuances of the following statements:

  • Plastic packaging is (NOT) the largest contributor to a product’s environmental impact.
  • The environmental impacts of plastics are (NOT) greater than all other packaging materials.
  • Reusable products are (NOT) always better than single-use plastics.
  • Recycling and composting should (NOT) be our highest priority.
  • “Zero waste” efforts that eliminate single-use plastics (DO NOT) minimize the environmental impacts of an event.

Presenter Bio: 

Shelie Miller is the Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professor in Sustainable Systems at the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. An environmental engineer by training, Miller's research is highly interdisciplinary, with a focus on life cycle assessment and systems analysis of emerging products. Her research has been featured by various media outlets, including NPR, TIME, the BBC, Forbes, Consumer Reports, and The Guardian.