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!
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).
Links to media reports:
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!
In his recent Viewpoint in Environmental Science and Technology, G. Allen Burton asks why “fellow scientists continue to focus on superficial microplastics risks” as “low exposure concentrations dictate there could be no risk”.
You want to learn more about our work? ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research offers the opportunity for pupils to complete an internship. This two weeks internship supports career choices and gives insights in the daily work routine: what’s science and what means inter- and transdisciplinary research.
Vietnam gained dubious fame: Its one of the top five countries contributing most to marine litter. So, what’s the case? Insights from my first field study: The case of Phu Quoc.
Johanna and Carolin have published an article in the special issue “Seas and Oceans” of Aus Politik- und Zeitgeschichte (APuZ) discussing how science has discovered the phenomenon of garbage patches in the oceans and how microplastics are negotiated at the interface of science and society.
The diagnosis that we are living in a world-risk society formulated by Ulrich Beck twenty years ago (Beck 1996) has lost nothing of its power, especially against the background of the Anthropocene debate. “Global risks” have been identified which are caused by human activities, technology and modernization processes. Microplastics are a byproduct of exactly these modernization processes, being distributed globally by physical processes like ocean currents, and causing effects far from their place of origin.
Meandering 26 miles through southeastern Pennsylvania, Darby Creek flows into the Delaware River just west of Philadelphia International Airport. I first visited Darby Creek with Professor Helen K. White and a dozen other undergraduate students from Haverford College as part of a chemistry lab intensive course.
A literature study on marine litter governance by Ashley Hedger.
The ocean may be vast, but it does have it limits to how much overexploitation and pollution it can take, and such damages could be irreversible.
A Plastic Ocean is one of the latest documentaries on the plastic pollution in the environment. PlastX in collaboration with the Orfeos Erben Cinema is screening the movie and discussing it afterwards. Join us on Thursday 4th of May, 8:15pm at Orfeos Erben Cinema in Frankfurt.
in Globalized Food Supply Systems – Temporal Dimension (3). In 21st century food markets, the differentiation of production and consumption practices is not only spatial but also temporal.
in Globalized Food Supply Systems – Spatial Dimension (2). Industrial food supply is characterized by globalized markets and increasing food miles. Modern supermarkets provide foods from all over the world, all year long. As these foods need to be transported, increasing physical distance generates need for technical solutions to ensure safe transportation of fragile goods. Packaging is central to many of these transportation practices.
Master thesis on EU plastic waste management by Magdalena Langer, following her internship with the PlastX research group:
Carolin Völker, PlastX co-leader, in the interview with Technology Review about microplastics.
Which (unnecessary) packaging frustrates consumers and why? What are responses from producers and suppliers? The consumer association “Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen” ran a campaign on occasion of the European Week for Waste Reduction 2016 to address these questions.
With headlines like “Clothing from ocean plastic” companies indicate that they turn marine debris into new products and seem to demonstrate their eco-friendliness and sustainability. Recycling of plastics into clothing is not new: Since more than 15 years used plastic bottles have been utilized to produce new textiles; but over the years technologies got better and now even shoes can be made from recycled plastic. Is this media-effective topic only exploited for marketing purposes or does ”clothing from ocean plastic” really help to tackle global plastic pollution?
The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) aims to mobilize actors to implement awareness raising actions on waste reduction, product reuse and materials recycling. It takes place from the 19th to the 27th of November 2016 across Europe. This years’ Prevention Thematic Day is revolving around “Packaging Waste Reduction – Use Less Packaging!”
On the 20th of October, PlastX welcomed their project partners at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE). The Kick-off Workshop was the starting point for close transdisciplinary collaboration between science and societal practice.
What role does sociology play in research about social-ecological transformations? The 13th convention of the junior group “Environmental Sociology” (NGU) took place in Münster this year and PlastX featured a two-hour workshop.
Now that the newly formed PlastX research team is ready to take off, we are inviting partners from science and society to a first come-together for a kick-off workshop on the 20th of October.
As every year, at the beginning of September, it was time for the annual meeting of the SETAC GLB (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry).
We are very pleased to announce that the PlastX group was completed this July and immediately got involved in the plastic topic.
Today this press release has been published:
Plastic is part of our daily lives. It can be used in various way, it is robust and cheap to produce. But plastic is mainly made from mineral oil and as a waste product it pollutes the environment. Which role does this ambivalent material play within society and what are its environmental impacts? The junior research group “PlastX” which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) investigates how it may be possible to sustainably deal with plastic.
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