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The Student Insider

This World Environment Day, be part of the solution to plastic pollution


Plastic is everywhere. The material finds its way into every corner of our lives; it’s strong, flexible and durable, making it suitable for countless uses. But the same qualities that make plastic so useful also make it a grave environmental threat.

 Collecting plastic on the beach

A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the ocean, slowly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces which never truly disappear. Every piece of plastic ever made is still around in some form – and we’re producing more of it than ever before.

More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, half of which is designed to be single use. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled, and around 20 million tonnes end up in our lakes, rivers and seas. World Environment Day on 5 June 2023 is focused on solutions to plastic pollution, under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution.

As the campaign highlights, countries, businesses and individuals are all learning to use the material more sustainably – and we have the science and solutions to address the problem. Much work is already underway: in 2022, in the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord, 175 UN Member States resolved to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement that will be ready by the end of 2024.

But while governments prepare to ramp up their responses to the crisis, there is a greater need than ever for expert practitioners who can think in a holistic way about how to tackle these challenges.

The MSc Global Environment and Sustainability at the University of London aims to provide students with a well-rounded and interdisciplinary understanding of the causes and consequences of these urgent environmental issues.

The programme, offered in partnership with federation member Birkbeck, covers the most pressing environmental problems of our time – from pollution to climate change and biodiversity – and explores how effective policy and management can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Alongside core modules, you’ll have the opportunity to delve deeper into a specialist area of your choice through an independent research project.

The ‘Waste and pollution’ module explores how these environmental hazards can be reduced and managed to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). It’s one of five core modules which can be studied as part of the MSc, PGDip and PGCert programmes, and is also available to study as an individual module.

The module highlights links between environmental processes and social inequalities at global, national and local scales. Through real-world case studies, you’ll learn to discuss and evaluate the complex causes and consequences of environmental pollution and waste for different societal groups, and assess the effectiveness of different policies.

The Global Environment and Sustainability programme is designed with flexibility in mind: fully online delivery means you can learn at your own pace, from anywhere, and schedule your studies around work and family commitments.

The programme is designed and taught by experienced professionals and practitioners, giving you access to the foremost academic expertise as well as industry-related insights.

Whether you already work in environmental sustainability or are looking to make a career change, there is a flourishing job market for graduates in this area.

Find out how you can make a difference in the most pressing environmental challenges of our time with the MSc in Global Environment and Sustainability.