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Call for experts: ''Plastics and the Circular Economy“

05 December 2018

EASAC is looking for experts to join working group.

The EASAC (European Academies' Science Advisory Council) Environment Steering Panel supports a project focused on the system-wide problems that need to be solved in order to reduce environmental impact and improve circularity of the plastics economy – especially plastic packaging where much of the environmentally damaging leakage occurs. Solving this requires a holistic, systems-level approach involving multiple stakeholders in which the contributing sciences include design for recycling, industrial use requirements, consumer behaviour, economic incentives as well as technologies for recycle.

The proposal is thus to work initially towards the following draft structure:

  • Provide the background of plastics growth/use and energy/resource demands
  • Summarise externalities of low recovery and recycle, high leakage and impacts on terrestrial and marine systems
  • Analyse supply chain responsibilities and silos which lead to system failures; e.g.
    • Design on convenience and product competition
    • Consumer one-use addiction and lack of choice
    • Burden of disposal separate from the manufacturer and consumer
    • Unfavourable economics due to mixture of materials, contamination by additives and package content, low price compared with virgin material

A circular approach would require:

  • Design for recycle (limits to polymers used and additives)
  • Integrating reuse/recycle planning throughout the product manufacture, use tend-of-life performance (strengthening Extended Producer Responsibility)
  • Applying incentives/responsibilities to consumers to encourage behavioural change away from the one-way use philosophy
  • Adjustments to the end-of life stage (through technology and/or economic incentives) to make recycling economically desirable.

The Expert Panel for this project would need expertise on:

  • Material sciences
  • Recycling design
  • Recycling technologies
  • Consumer behavioural research
  • Externality economics

The project would follow on from earlier work by EASAC on the Circular Economy (2015 Statement on the CE, and 2016 reports on CE indicators and critical materials). The scope of the study would need to include expertise on environmental impacts, production and use patterns of the plastics industry, and options for policy and innovation to steer the industry to a more sustainable model. To express an interest in this project please contact by Wednesday 9th January 2019.

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