We all know the recipe for plastic soup. Just add over 9 billion kilos of plastic to the ocean every year. Stir a little. Done. More plastic than fish by 2050. We don’t like those numbers. There’s something that needs to be done. And that’s what we did. With the Dopper Changemaker Challenge we started our own thesis award to accelerate the development of solutions that have big impact on the plastic and water issues we’re currently facing. Because life in plastic? Definitely not fantastic. 20 Students in 4 different countries crossed swords in order to obtain the Dopper Changemaker title. And ofcourse the €5.000, - (or £5.000, -, or NRS 200.000, -) in prize money.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Carla Maria Scagnetti, orginally from Mexico, and now a M.Sc. student at the University of Stuttgart. Naturally, with a passion for sustainability. With her research project, we’ll finally be able to answer an age-old question. What’s better for our planet, a cucumber with or without shrink wrap? Spoiler alert: the right balance between food loss and plastic waste is the key to a full environmental assessment.
The whole cake
Start with the whole cake, then specialize in one piece. That’s what Carla’s Scagnetti’s mom told Carla when she decided she wanted to study environmental science. So that’s exactly what Carla did. She finished her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering before starting her journey to save the world. And guess what! That journey had an even longer way coming.
At the early age of just 10 years old, Carla saw a picture of a polar bear surrounded by melting ice. Instead of chucking the picture away (like any other 10-year-old would do) it not only stuck with her, she read a whole book on the subject. Eventually a Netflix documentary on plastic pollution would be the decisive factor. Time to leave the beaches of Mexico behind and move to not-so-sunny Germany to complete her studies and master’s degree.
Almost 40% of plastic demand in the European Union is used for packaging. Often designed for one-time use, with an incredibly short life time span. A huge red flag for Carla. And definitely the starting point for her plans to tackle our plastic pollution problem (say that 5 times quick).
Circularity is both the answer and the missing link to plastic disappearing from a controlled infrastructure. In normal English that means plastic is being littered. Ending up in places it shouldn’t. With her thesis, Carla targets an estimation of marine litter contribution and introduces a baseline. That baseline quantifies the amount of plastic packaging entering the waters of Germany. From the Oder to the Rhine. A kick-ass idea by a kick-ass woman!
My friends made me do it
But we very nearly did not have Carla in the competition at all! She believed her thesis was far too scientific to even have a chance at being selected. But little did she know how far ‘only analyzing data and reading a lot’ could get her. Don’t forget to thank your friends that basically pressured her into applying for doing so, Carla!
So, what’s next?
Obviously, the sky is the limit. So what does the sky look like in Carla’s future? Her ultimate goal is to continue her research and include marine litter into the mix. A long process, but we’re sure that she will definitely be a part of something even bigger, very soon.
In 5 years, she hopes consumers have woken up, and have changed their consumer behavior. But it’s not just the consumers problem, we also need producers in the packaging industry to claim their part. And surprise, the government needs to step up their game as well. Together we can take action to solve plastic pollution and slow down climate goals. Big dreams, even bigger goals.
This definitely won’t be the last thing we hear from Carla. Mark our words.