Helen Holmes

Lecturer in Sociology & Theme lead: Inclusive and Prosperous Futures


 What are your research interests and areas of expertise?

Consumption, material culture, waste, diverse forms of economy, particularly circular economy.

What is the focus of your current research?

My research is currently focused on waste and disposal.  I am involved in two projects in this area:

  1. One Bin to Rule Them All an interdisciplinary project funded by UKRI involving social science, material science and business models to explore how we can improve plastic recycling.  I lead the social science work package.
  2.  The Waste Tip which is an UMRI funded project focused on fly-tipping and understanding the impact of fly-tipping, why it occurring and how it can be tackled.  This involves colleagues from social science, material science, business and management and engineering.

What are some projects or breakthroughs you wish to highlight?

Our work on the One Bin project has highlighted the complexities of household plastic recycling.  This nuanced, micro level data has revealed the plethora of activities which go on within the home to deal with recycling.  Our work has illuminated the confusion regarding what should go in what bin, what things are made of and how they should be treated.  

What do you feel is the biggest challenge in sustainability right now?

There are numerous big challenges.  Obviously, climate change and reducing carbon footprint is of significant importance and this dovetails into numerous other areas - energy, food, waste, consumption, loss of biodiversity.

 What real world challenges do you see sustainability-focussed research having an impact on in the next 10 years?

Reducing plastic waste is one issue UoM research will have an impact on, but also moving towards zero carbon, and working towards the Sustainable Development Goals.  From the perspective of my own theme of Inclusive and Prosperous Futures, dealing with real world challenges without exacerbating inequalities or having unintended consequences.

Find out more about Helen’s research here.

Find out more about the Inclusive and Prosperous Futures theme here.