Master thesis on EU plastic waste management by Magdalena Langer, following her internship with the PlastX research group:

„Can you imagine the average European consumer looking at their weekly shop – at the plastic bags and the packaging – and seeing it as a marine hazard? It may sound crazy, but that is exactly the awareness we have to build….“, said Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner for Environment, at the European Conference ‘Marine Litter: Plastic Soup and More’ in November 2010. Therewith, he addressed the question what plastics mean to our society and how we should deal with the material when it has become waste. From a constructivist perspective, plastic waste as a real world phenomenon is not ‘a problem’ in itself, but can be defined as such and played out on discursive arenas. This perception on problems, responsibilities and possible solutions are manifested in how we deal with waste, in our institutions and infrastructure. In this case, discourses can be as powerful as to make average citizens connect the packaging of their mundane foodstuff to turtles and birds entangled in plastic marine litter far away.

The analysis of discourses on plastic waste management in the EU is the theme of my Master Thesis developed during my internship at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in the junior research project ‘PlastX’. By analysing official documents and conducting interviews with stakeholders involved in the policy processes, I will explore how the use of language, knowledge and structure has shaped EU plastic waste management approaches since 2005. Using the Discursive Agency Approach (Leipold & Winkel 2016), I want to identify agents that influenced the discourses and their strategies to do so. The thesis is part of the Master’s programme ‘Environmental Governance’ at the University of Freiburg and is supervised by Dr. Sina Leipold and Prof. Dr. Michael Pregernig at the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy.

For further information, please contact me via magdalena.langer[AT]