27 Jan 2021

Venue: Online

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

Wednesdays for the Planet is a series of online screenings and virtual presentations with experts highlighting the natural world and other environmental challenges our planet faces. The virtual screenings are for educational purposes, non-profit and non-commercial.

The Plastic Problem

The Plastic Problem is a documentary from the award-winning broadcast magazine PBS NewsHour. It explores the issue of plastic pollution, now considered one of the largest environmental threats facing humans and animals globally.


In The Plastic Problem, PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz and her PBS NewsHour colleagues look at this now ubiquitous material and how it’s impacting the world, why it’s become so prevalent, what’s being done to mitigate its use, and what potential alternatives or solutions are out there. This hour-long program travels from Boston to Seattle, Costa Rica to Easter Island to bring the global scale of the problem to light.

From an expert on the world’s garbage patches to an industrial ecologist who quantified exactly how much plastic has ever been produced, Nawaz tracks how the world is grappling with plastic. She also sits down with two of the world’s biggest plastic producers — The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever — to find out what they’re doing to address the problem.

Since its widespread use began after World War II — everything from band-aids to parachutes — over 9 billion metric tons of plastic has been created. And because it doesn’t degrade and instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, much of that plastic is still here on earth. The problem is clear: too much plastic. But finding solutions is a murkier proposition.

Recycling for decades has been one of the so-called solutions. Nawaz tries her hand at sorting waste at a recycling facility. But an expert says the way we currently recycle is actually a part of the problem. Much of America’s plastic waste was being sent to China. But now China has shut its doors to plastic waste, which could result by 2030 in more than 100 million tons of trash with nowhere to go. Markets are shifting, prices are tanking and now all that plastic scrap has been diverted to other southeast Asian countries, opening up a host of illegal markets. One of those is Malaysia, where our teams found countless examples of plastic waste from western nations at both legal and illegal recycling or incineration sites.

Bans on plastic have become one attempt at addressing the problem. Seattle is one of the first major American cities to ban single-use plastics. Nawaz visits a compost heap, a noisy and busy recycling facility, the Seattle Mariners ballpark and an iconic Seattle seafood chain — all are playing their part in finding solutions to the plastic problem. Nawaz also meets a young scientist who discovered a bacteria that eats plastic; a young inventor who has made an alternative to plastic wrap out of the by products of beer brewing; a startup making plastic roads ; and a trash can that goes underwater to collect plastic waste. On a smaller scale, she meets a family in Toronto, Canada trying to reduce their plastic footprint by shopping at a new zero-waste grocery store.



The Geneva Environment Network will have two experts who will speak on the current plastic crisis and international agreements.

Susan Wingfield

Programme Officer, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS)

Susan Wingfield is a Programme Officer in the Governance Branch of the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. Among her responsibilities is the facilitation of two partnerships under the Convention, on plastic waste and household waste, and coordination of the work of one of the Convention’s subsidiary bodies. She is also Gender Focal Point for the BRS Conventions. Prior to her role at the Secretariat, Susan performed a variety of project management and consultancy roles within the UN, World Bank, UK government and banking, finance and IT sectors. Susan holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and a master’s degree in Environmental Technology.

Andrés del Castillo

Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Andrés del Castillo is the Senior Attorney for the Environmental Health Program at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), supporting the growing campaign to address the impacts of plastic production, use, and disposal worldwide, including securing a mandate within the United Nations to negotiate a new global agreement to address the plastic crisis.

Andrés is an attorney and a member of the bar in Colombia. He came to CIEL with over eight years of experience in engaging with UN human rights monitoring institutions and multilateral environmental negotiations, as well as several years working in private sector and insurance law.

Andrés is passionate about reducing inequalities in the world and working with populations in vulnerable situations. He is an expert on Indigenous Peoples’ rights with a strong background in climate change, the environment, and business and human rights. His past work includes a mix of legal advising and strategic engagement with organisations like the European Union, the UN Global Compact, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum. He came to CIEL from the Indigenous Peoples’ Documentation Centre (Docip), where he spearheaded the process to be recognised by UNESCO as World Documentary Heritage, granted in 2017.

Since 2016, he has conducted a module on Responsible Business Conduct and Created Shared Value for a Master’s of Advanced Studies programme at the University of Geneva.

Andrés holds a bachelor’s degree in Law and from the University of the Sabana in Colombia, a Special Certificate in the paster’s program in International Law from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, a Higher University Diploma in Law of the European Union, and a master’s degree in International Administration Law from the Université Panthéon – Assas (Paris II) in France.

Virtual Presentations


  • AMCEN – African Ministerial Conference on the Environment
  • Basel – Basel Convention
  • CARICOM – Caribbean Community
  • IMO – International Maritime Organization
  • Stockholm – Stockholm Convention
  • UNEA – United Nations Environment Assembly