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From plastic pollution to solutions


Project description

From Plastic Pollution to Solutions: Public Communication of Environmental and Health Risks

The problem of plastic pollution is of increasing concern with significant implications for society in terms of our health, well-being and economy. This project explores how the issue is emerging in UK media reporting and the impact of messages on different audiences. We are testing a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to map news stories and visual images concerning plastic pollution. We are also using an innovative digital survey to capture public engagement with the issue through storytelling in adventure documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ (Netflix, 2017). This is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration involving social scientists, environmental scientists and natural history film makers. Our findings feed into debates about solutions to the problem of plastic pollution and the public communication of risk messages concerning an emerging scientific issue for industry and policy makers. For example our findings have been shared with Plastics Europe, and British Plastics Federation.


  • Henderson, L (invited editorial) “Sociological Perspectives on Plastic Pollution” British Sociological Association. April 16, 2019. https://es.britsoc.co.uk/tag/lesley-henderson/
  • SAPEA, Science Advice for Policy by European Academies. (2019). A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society. SAPEA: Berlin. https://www.sapea.info/topics/microplastics/
  • Henderson, L and Hilton, S. (2018). Guest Editors. Emerging Public Health Debates: Where next for critical media analysis? Special issue Media and Public health. Critical Public Health. 12 (4) 373-376. https://doi.org/10.1080/09581596.2018.1482663
  • Henderson, L. Solving the problem of plastic pollution: Beyond the natural sciences? (Cost of Living). May 25, 2018, https://www.cost-ofliving.net/solving-the-problem-of-plastic-pollution-beyond-the-natural-sciences/
  • Henderson, L. “Q and A with Film maker Jo Ruxton”, August, 2016. Dive magazine.
  • Henderson, L. “Can a movie help us see an invisible health crisis?” July 20, 2016. https://www.cost-ofliving.net/can-a-movie-help-us-see-an-invisible-health-crisis/
  • Henderson, L “A Plastic Ocean: Can an environmental documentary film make us see plastics differently?”, (Environment and Energy section), The Conversation. June, 7, 2016. Top story in environment section for World Oceans Day, June 8th 2016.
  • Henderson, L. “Plastic Ocean- why the world should declare plastic ‘hazardous waste’, The Ecologist. June 8, 2016.
  • Henderson, L. (2018). Telling stories about (micro)plastic pollution: Media images, public perceptions and social change. In https://micro2018.sciencesconf.org/data/pages/micro2018_proceedings_book_1.pdf. Arrecife, Spain.
  • Henderson, L., & Green, C (2017) Documentary, News and Public Understandings”, In Communication and Documentary, News and Public Understandings”, In Communication and Environment (International Environmental Communication Association). Leicester.
  • Henderson, L., & Green, C. (2017, June 26). Making sense of plastic pollution: A UK study of images, messages and perceptions of (micro)plastics. In http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/the-lives-and-afterlives-of-plastic/. Massey University, New Zealand.  

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