What can be done to reduce plastic usage?

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Can we replace conventional plastics with sustainable materials?

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What are the effects of plastic waste in the environment?

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Marine Litter

How do we cope with plastic waste in the environment?

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19 July 2018

Plastics of the future? The impact of biodegradable polymers on the environment and on society

We are living in a plastic age. For most of us, life without polymers and plastics is unthinkable. However, in recent years the littering of plastics and the problems related to their persistence in the environment have become a major focus in both research and the news. Biodegradable polymers like poly(lactic acid) are seen as a suitable alternative to commodity plastics in order to minimize the impact of plastics on the environment after disposal. However, poly(lactic acid) is basically non‐degradable in seawater. Similarly, the degradation rate of other biodegradable polymers also crucially depends on the environments they end up in, such as soil or marine water, or when used in biomedical devices.

In our recently published review in Angewandte Chemie international edition, we show that biodegradation tests carried out in artificial environments lack transferability to real conditions and, therefore, highlight the necessity of environmentally authentic and relevant field‐testing conditions. In addition, we focus on ecotoxicological implications of biodegradable polymers: Are there any possible adverse effects on biota caused by degradation products of the polymers? We also consider the social aspects and ask how biodegradable polymers influence consumer behavior and municipal waste management. Taken together, this study is intended as a contribution towards evaluating the potential of biodegradable polymers as alternative materials to commodity plastics.

Check out our review here!

19 July 2018

Citizens University’s event “Life in the Plastic Age – can we use plastics in a sustainable way?”

On June 28th, the PlastX group hosted the Frankfurt Citizens University’s event “Life in the Plastic Age – how can we use plastics in a sustainable way?” at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE).


Lead by the journalist Michael Blum, about 100 citizens discussed together with PlastX researchers Dr. Johanna Kramm (ISOE), Dr. Carolin Völker (ISOE) and Dr. Frederik Wurm (Max Plank Institute for Polymer Research) and Isabell Kuhn quality management manager at Alnatura and living plastic-free blogger Christian Arnold (author “plastics diary”-blog) about plastic usage in everyday life.


A graphic recorder visualized the discussion of the evening.


By the end of the night, the bottom line was that production and consumption patterns need to be changed each in order to keep the ecological and economic costs of plastic- use in check. All participants agreed that the burden to reduce plastics in our daily lives has to be shared between all players:  producers, retailers (grocery stores etc.) and costumers. This also includes a much better flow of and access to information to costumers, for example in stores, to what actually is sustainable and what is not.


Here  you find more information on the discussion (in German).


Further downloads:


Graphic Recording

Recording of the event, part 1 (scientist’s input)

Recording of the event, part 2 (Discussion)


Links to media reports:

Frankfurter Rundschau, 08.07.2018 “Wir leben im Plastikzeitalter”

Deutschlandfunk, Umwelt und Verbraucher, 29.06.2018 Ist ein nachhaltiger Umgang mit Plastik möglich?

25 April 2018

Summer School “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations”

Call for Participation: We are thrilled to announce the summer school “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations” organized by PlastX researchers together with the ISOE – Institute of Social-Ecological Research!

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