Our Mission

Ropes

Copyright: Maria Pinto

Plastic is one of the most widely used material in modern societies with an annual production of 322 million tons. Both the versatility and durability of plastics makes it a commonly used material, on the one hand, but causes growing environmental problems and concerns, on the other hand. While marine systems have been fairly well studied in terms of presence of plastic materials, rivers, lakes and estuaries are less well studied in this respect. Reviewing recent studies published on plastics as an environmental problem reveals that essentially all the work published thus far is rather mono-disciplinary and largely restricted to the concentration of plastics of different sizes in the environment. Comprehensive interdisciplinary studies are lacking almost entirely. This gap should be filled by the research platform Plastics in the Environment and Society.

Making efficient use of the spectrum of scientific fields present at the University of Vienna, we will establish a coherent, holistic research platform addressing the global plastic pollution combining environmental with societal aspects. Based on interviews and card-based discussion forums, the perception of plastic products in our society will be investigated. What role is ascribed to the use of plastics in the society? What does the society know about plastic material? Are there connections between knowledge about plastics, its perception on the consumer level and as an environmental thread? Ultimately, the question should be addressed, in which way information and changing perceptions on the use are capable to alter consumer habits.

Plastic material exists in the size continuum ranging from macro- to micro- and nanoplastics reacting in different ways with organisms including microbes. Individual size fractions can provoke different effects. These will be holistically investigated including the role of plastic-associated microbial biofilms and plastic additives released from the plastics into the environment.

What is the effect of bringing new scientific knowledge on the environmental impact of plastics on the societal perception and acceptance of plastic products? These are questions addressed by the research platform within its first three years.