Shaw Institute Showcases Research on Alternatives to Plastics and Toxic Chemicals

Dr. James Brown

Join the Shaw Institute on Wednesday, July 12, for its second lecture of the 2023 season to learn about promising solutions to today’s recycling challenges and exposure to dangerous chemicals in everyday products.  

The featured speaker is James Brown, Ph.D., from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing. Brown’s talk, Ban, Recycle or Replace: What is Most Sustainable?, will highlight his pivotal research on material design, plastics recycling, and how creating eco-friendly replacements for dangerous chemicals, such as PFAS, can lead us to a more sustainable future.

Brown and Charlie Rolsky, Shaw Institute Senior Research Scientist, were colleagues and co-researchers at Arizona State University while Rolsky was a postdoc and Brown was pursuing his doctorate degree. Rolsky saw first-hand Brown’s innovative and creative research. Says Rolsky, “How do we make sustainable and safe flame retardants and plastics that truly biodegrade? That’s our green future and that’s where Dr. Brown enters the conversation.”

A frequent answer to the challenge of managing municipal waste has been to recycle. In 2021 alone, more than 40 million tons of municipal plastic waste were generated in the U.S.  Yet, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the state’s solid waste recycling rate is barely over 36.5%. Furthermore, recycling centers are closing at an accelerated rate in Maine and across the country. Several factors account for these closings, including rising costs, loss of markets for recycled waste, and today, increasing concerns over toxic chemical contamination like PFAS in the waste we recycle. 

Brown is developing alternative replacements for these plastics and dangerous chemicals – materials that are not just safer, but also more recyclable. According to Rolsky, Brown’s work is critically important: “I strongly believe that his research in material science will play a massive role in replacing conventional plastics and dangerous chemicals. James is leading this fight.”

Join the Shaw Institute on Wednesday, July 12. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5pm with light refreshments, courtesy of Blue Hill Wine Shop, followed by the lecture at 6pm. Shaw Institute is located at 55 Main St., Blue Hill. 

A Zoom link is available on the Shaw Institute website for those unable to attend in person but wishing to watch the lecture live and participate in the Q&A. 

About the Shaw Institute Environmental Speaker Series

A signature program now in its 20th year, the Environmental Speaker Series brings national and global experts and thought leaders to the Blue Hill Research Center (and online) to hear updates and engage in dialogue on critical environmental and human health concerns in a public forum setting. Each talk is followed by a Q&A session. The lectures are free and open to the public.

About the Institute

The Shaw Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit scientific research organization based in Maine and founded in 1990 by ecotoxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw. Our mission is to discover and expose environmental threats to people and wildlife through innovative science, and to engage in local and global partnerships to improve human and ecological health.