Plastics in the Food System: Sustainability and Health
byBhavani Shankar
Webinar or Seminar
| Environment, Food Systems, Nutrition, Planetary Health, Public Health
Date and Time
From: 25 March 2022, 13:00
To: 25 March 2022, 14:00
GMT Greenwich Mean Time GMT
Open Full Event Sheffield - Grantham & Sustainable Futures

The Institute for Sustainable Food and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures jointly host their Food Systems, Health and Sustainability online seminar in March 2022.

This double-header seminar brings together insights from multiple projects and considers the role of plastics in modern food systems, implications for planetary and human health and perspectives for the future.

Segment 1: Rorie Parsons, The University of Sheffield

In this segment, we explore several research findings from two interdisciplinary research projects, “Plastics: Redefining single-use” and “Many Happy Returns: Enabling reusable packaging systems”. First, we explore the role of plastic packaging in transforming food retailing throughout the middle to the late twentieth century. Here we highlight plastic packaging’s role in enabling product development, whilst maintaining and enhancing services of quality, safety, freshness, hygiene, and convenience. The second part of the presentation considers these insights when thinking about the future of retailing and shopping in the context of the need for better environmental outcomes. Considering the role of reusable packaging systems, we explore how these services are renegotiated by the public when attempting sustainable consumption practices.


Dr Rorie Parsons is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the “Many Happy Returns – Enabling reusable packaging systems” project, funded through the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge. Based at The University of Sheffield, The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, Rorie’s research encompasses a range of topics concerning issues of sustainability, environmentalism, and processes of change. This includes understanding the transition of business practices, technologies, and markets, as well as understanding social change and the patterning of everyday life. His work approaches these from both a historical and contemporary standpoint through a mixture of research methodologies, most notably, ethnography, archival analysis, and secondary data research.

Rorie was also a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the UKRI funded project “Plastics – Redefining single-use” where his work contributed to better understanding the role of single-use plastics in everyday life and its importance in today’s society.

Segment 2: Megan Deeney and Joe Yates, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

In this segment, we will present the findings of three IMMANA publications on plastics. First, a systematic scoping review of evidence on the food security, environmental and human health effects of plastics used throughout the food system. Second, the results of a new meta-analysis that highlights the possible human health implications of increasing circularity in food packaging; and third, a political economy discussion around who is responsible for food system plastics and their impacts.


Megan Deeney is a Research Assistant and PhD Candidate at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, working on the IMMANA Programme (Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions). She undertakes research on the human health implications of circular economy strategies for food system plastics and has also collaborated on IMMANA's mental health and nutrition research.

Joe Yates is a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Co-Director of Agriculture, Nutrition & Health Academy; a global network of researchers, practitioners and policymakers working at the intersections of agri-food systems, nutrition and health. He is interested in the functions and impacts of food systems plastics, as well as power dynamics and political economy surrounding the plastic problem.

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