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Under the Lid - Meet Professor Susan Michie

Illustration of Professor Susan Michie. Image © Ruby Wright

Susan Michie is Professor of Health Psychology in UCL’s Department of Psychology and Language Sciences and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London. As a behavioural scientist, Susan is interested in identifying key players in reducing plastic waste in different parts of the circular economy – reducing purchasing of single-use plastics and increasing re-use and recycling. The scales of intervention being researched vary, from large scale organisations to individual level behaviour change.

Illustration of a Plastic Waste Innovation Hub meeting. Image © Ruby Wright

Key behavioural research into compostable or biodegradable plastics includes assessing the public perception of these materials in relation to how they actually perform, assessing the language and labelling used to indicate how citizens should correctly dispose of them, and assessing the potential issue that behaviour surrounding these materials may increase environmental pollution through littering, or divert organisations from adopting more environmentally beneficial approaches to packaging such as designing for reduction, recycling, and reuse.

Illustration exploring behaviour around disposal and recycling. Image © Ruby Wright

In collaboration with other activities of the Plastic Waste Innovation Hub project, Susan is looking to use understanding of the influences on behaviour (aspects of motivation, capability and opportunity) to design and evaluate interventions to help reduce plastic waste. As part of this work, the Plastic Waste Innovation Hub, in collaboration with UCL Estates, will use UCL as an experimental laboratory to reduce single-use plastic brought onto campus (e.g. water bottles, coffee cups, industrial packaging) and to ensure that waste is appropriately recycled. This will involve considering UCL as a system of plastic use/re-use/re-cycling and targeting behaviour change in a range of people, including both providers and consumers of plastic on campus.

Illustration of single-use disposable cups. Image © Ruby Wright

Illustration of re-usable cups. Image © Ruby Wright