The Imperial Life Cycle Network’s Journal Club brings together researchers (staff and students) working with, and/or interested in, life cycle approaches to discuss relevant topics, facilitate knowledge sharing, network and build collaborations. The Journal Club is open to all academics. To register for the Journal club please email the Network using your university email address. You will then receive further information, including the link for the online meeting, shortly before the date of the Journal Club. Here the details for the Journal Club!

 Thursday 21th October 2021, 12.30-13.30 (UK time) Mrs Claire Hunt, Integrated Water Management Convenor, Centre for Environmental Policy 

Speaker’s bio:

Claire Hunt works in the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, where she convenes the Integrated Water Management Option of the MSc in Environmental Technology. Claire’s most recent research interests focus on pollution of the marine environment, including the impacts of microplastics on the environment and health, and the effectiveness of voluntary remediation measures. The recent paper on ‘Evaluating alternatives to plastic microbeads in cosmetics’ sprang directly from DEFRA concerns to ensure that legislation does not have unforeseen consequences.

With a first degree in Physics and Chemistry from the University of Nottingham, followed by an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Hertfordshire, Claire joined the CEP in 2005 on the MSc Environmental Technology Water Option.  Since then, she has researched many environmental concerns of the water companies: analysis of taste and odour compounds in drinking water, micropollutants and wastewater treatment, and the revised bathing waters directive, while recent work for DEFRA investigated knowledge gaps regarding the impact of urban diffuse water pollution, and how to develop integrated urban interventions so that they yield multiple benefits such as pollution reduction, flooding control and improved health outcomes. 

Topic of discussion: Evaluating alternatives to plastic microbeads in cosmetics


In our haste to ban or regulate unsustainable and environmentally damaging materials and chemicals, we may overlook dangers posed by their substitutes. In light of the scientific evidence regarding the fate, persistence and toxicity of microplastics in the marine environment, many countries have banned the sale of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads to prevent their release to the environment. However, the wider lifetime environmental impacts of the potential substitutes have not been considered, and care must be taken so that the environmental costs of using them do not potentially outweigh the benefits resulting from the bans. In this study, we use life cycle assessment to compare the environmental performance of a wide range of potential alternatives. The study investigates the quantities of these materials required and the human health and environ- mental impacts of their manufacture, transport and inclusion in cosmetics. We highlight that the long-term environmental and human health effects of their disposal are unknown and are thus excluded from the life cycle assessment. In support of the responsible replacement of plastic microbeads in cosmetics, we identify several alternatives that will perform better, as well as substitutes that could pose additional risks and have undesirable effects.

To register for the journal club, please email us with your email address.