The private sector has a multitude of approaches to reduce the entry of plastics into the environment. There is potential along the entire value chain, from polymer design and production through the use phase and disposal/recycling to collection and use of floating sea trash as a basis for new products.
From a social-ecological perspective, the focus on plastics – aside from production and commercial handling – should be on consumption. This involves e.g. changing the unencumbered use of plastics, and testing the acceptance of plastic alternatives.
A circular economy as well as recycling contribute significantly to avoidance of plastics’ departure from the economic value chain into the environment and thereby into marine ecosystems. However, previous research on microplastics has shown that recycling as a whole should be differentiated.
Research on plastics in freshwater systems features only few isolated investigations; an overall understanding of plastics’ points of entry, their spread, and the resulting effects on aquatic biology (including risk analysis for humans) does not yet exist.
Oceans end up as the constant and central “sink” of the plastics lifecycle. Although research has been done on (micro-) plastics in marine systems, the state of knowledge on oceans is still patchy. The projects in this area of the “Plastic in Environment” research focus will try to narrow these knowledge gaps.