Polymer Committee Activities

Livery Schools Link Showcase Event at Guildhall

Early on a damp March morning four Horners assembled at the Guildhall to set out our stall at the Livery Schools Link exhibition. Liz Swinbank, Barry Maunders, Mike Birrell and Denis Cruse reprised the display from last year for the third appearance of Horners at this event.

The Guildhall provided impressive surroundings to our stand, joining the 30 or so other Livery Companies represented. A combination of “pully-uppies”, horn samples (kindly selected by Georgina Scott) contrasted with plastic equivalents, and practical demonstrations comprised the display, and the banners behind the table of made a colourful and informative backdrop. Barry had brought his electrolycra experiment – a metallised polymer whose resistance changes when stretched – as shown by the speed of a fan in the circuit which slowed then speeded up as the lycra was gradually stretched (which is being employed in the form of a belt which can monitor breathing). Liz provided a method of measuring the strength of a slice of Crunchie bar to compare it with bone replacement materials, an experiment from the SHAP course. Plentiful supplies of batteries and Crunchie bars were laid in for the day.

Just before 9.45a.m. the parties of school-children arrived, ages ranging from sixth form to primary and with a corresponding range of eagerness, but many were fascinated by finding out the breaking stress of a piece of Crunchie, and the intriguing possibilities of controlling electrical devices by pulling on a length of lycra – just think what those cycling shorts could do! And this despite the attraction again of the Coachmakers stand next door, who had brought in a racing circuit working to the strains of a familiar sound-track!!

We were joined by Clive Thompson, Colin Richards, Robin Kent and Gordon Haines taking turns on the stand and showing our exhibits to waves of students and teachers. A welcome break for lunch – though only 30 minutes, was followed by a second stint on the stand talking to more teenagers and their mentors. During the day’s sessions, which ran until 4p.m., a steady stream visited the stand, some with teachers for whom we had some literature about or from SHAP, British Plastics Federation and Horners’ Science Opens Doors initiative. The testing of the lycra was non-destructive, but the same was not true of the Crunchies which disintegrated into a sugary mess, though not before showing remarkable strength – but their solubility would not make them too useful as bone replacement!

At 4.00p.m our Master and the Clerk arrived along with several others for a reception, though rather lower key than last year. The space in the Guildhall allowed, as previously, for good circulation and this made setting up and running the stand more straightforward. Much credit for this must go to Peter Cave, who has taken over from Alison Truphet, for organising and coordinating this event for the LSL.

Salters/Horners Advanced Physics

Horners continue to support SHAP though at a lower level than in previous years.

We make awards to the top students in the SHAP A Level examinations and this year these were presented by the Master to three of the six winners at an event in the Salters Hall on 19 December.

There is more information and details about the winners here.


 This note by the Polymer Committee is to brief Horners who are on the periphery of the industry on the issues surrounding the debate about plastic waste in the environment.

Plastic has become essential and ubiquitous to our modern lifestyle because in product applications from medicine to digital devices it is more cost-effective, lighter and stronger than alternative materials. A recent paper estimates that to date we have produced 8300 million metric tonnes (Mt) of virgin material and production continues to increase. Currently most plastic is produced using oil or gas as the raw material but less than 10% of the world’s crude oil production goes into chemicals manufacture and plastics account for about half of this. In terms of emissions contributing to climate change plastic manufacture is a very small component and the product itself locks up carbon in a stable and inert form.

It is this stability which makes plastic a potential environmental issue since on disposal it breaks down only slowly. Of the total amount of plastic produced it is estimated that approximately 6300 Mt of waste have been generated of which 9% has been recycled, 12% incinerated and the remaining 79% accumulated in the environment mostly in landfill. In the last 10 years however recycle rates in Europe have increased by almost 80% and continue to do so. In 2016 31.1% of collected post consumer waste was recycled, 41.6% incinerated with energy recovery and only 27.3% went to landfill.

The issue of plastic pollution in the marine environment highlighted in the Blue Planet II film mainly arises from uncollected single use plastic packaging. The vast majority of this material flows from 10 rivers, 6 in Asia and 4 in Africa and the sub-continent in countries which have minimal systems for collecting and treating waste from any source. Less than 2% of marine waste comes from Europe and in the main this arises from “on-the-go” throw away litter. Other sources of marine pollution such as farm effluent and heavy metals from industrial activity are much more environmentally damaging but not so visible as floating plastic.

In the UK a number of steps have been or are being taken to address plastic packaging waste. Charging for plastic bags has reduced the number used by 85% and a deposit scheme for bottles is being developed. Supermarkets have agreed to review their packaging requirements and some have set targets for reductions in plastic use. Any change must be viewed from a holistic life cycle perspective since for example a cotton tote bag has to be used 150 times before it is comparable on a climate change measure to a single use plastic bag and a glass bottle used 50 times before it compares to its plastic alternative.

The British Plastics Federation has undertaken extensive work across the supply chain, including high-level government discussions, and recommended an action plan. This includes reform of the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations to better support the achievement of a circular economy, support and collaboration with stakeholders promoting anti-littering behavior change, encouraging packaging product design which promotes resource efficiency and end-of-life considerations and sharing best practice to improve waste management systems in developing countries.

MPW 12/05/2018


Plastic Waste in the Environment – What’s being done (and not done)

By Stuart Patrick FIMMM MRSC is Interim Chair of the IOM3 Polymer Society Board, a member of the IOM3 Sustainable Development Group and a Horner.

Click here to read.

British Plastics Federation article in The Engineer on Plastic Waste

Click here to read.

The Economist article on Plastic Pollution.

Click here to read.

Horners/BPF Polymer Apprentice Award

The Polymer Apprentice Award is run by the Horners Polymer Committee in collaboration with the British Plastics Federation.

Details of the award and its winners can be found by clicking  here

Polymer Study Tours

The three Polymer Study Tours run this year at Napier, Manchester and London Met were a great success following last year’s rather disappointing teacher numbers. The Horners contribute £10,000 each year to the cost of the Tours which together with the money from sponsors covers all the running costs. We are also indebted to the administrative support we receive from IoM3.

Comments from the teachers are always complimentary and give confidence in the continued relevance and benefits of the Tours.

There is more information here

Science Open Doors

The programme aimed at introducing pupils, teachers and parents to the opportunities arising from studying STEM subjects has visited 10 schools in 2016 with 3 more scheduled in the new year which will bring to 40 the total of schools visited since the programme commenced. The Tallow Chandlers and Paviors have again added financial support and 3 of the schools they support have been included in the programme.

Seeking to expand the programme beyond London the Horners have funded a pilot programme of school visits to 3 primary schools in Lincolnshire, undertaken by the Centre for Industry Education Collaboration (CIEC) part of the University of York, which will be completed in early 2017 and will confirm how the expansion plans will be implemented

More details can be found here.

British Science Association

Following the success of the CREST Star activities in British Science Week and the follow-up competitions over the last 3 years it was agreed with the BSA that with no new CREST Star activity planned there was a better opportunity to sponsor a polymer / plastics competition in the science quiz. The quiz is set for different age groups and a “Plastics and Science” round was included in 2017 with 10 questions – 9 multiple choice and an open question to help choose the final winners. This was successfully run.

Discussions took place with the BSA to develop ideas for continuing Horners involvement in their activities. As a result the Horners sponsored a project in BSA’s 2017 Demo Day which was an annual campaign during British Science Week (10 – 19 March 2017) that aimed to inspire secondary school teachers and technicians to explore new concepts, provoke discussions and generate excitement through running science demonstrations. The Horners’ project was for the first time,  targeted at primary schools and as such supported our Science Opens Doors activities.

There is more information here.

Support to IoM3 – The Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining.

Horners supported the IoM3s“Biomaterials: Bionic man fact or fiction” one day conference which was an excellent programme with polymers taking a high profile. Material from the presentations was sent to PST delegates.