On 23 May 2018, PlasticsEurope hosted a workshop with topic “Connecting Expert Communities to Address Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment” aiming at bringing together for the first time around 30 marine biology and LCA experts eager to cooperate.

This unprecedented workshop, which was organised by the Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI), was sponsored by ExxonMobil, Braskem and PlasticsEurope. The event was held in two different venues in Brussels: in the European Commission premises on 22 May, and in PlasticsEurope Brussels Headquarters on 23 May.

scientific workshop.JPGPeter Kershaw, an independent consultant (UK), opened the first day by presenting an overview on plastics marine litter, followed by Dr Christian Schmidt, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, who spoke about rivers as a source of marine litter. Guido Sonnemann, Bordeaux University and FSCLI, explained the basics of LCA while Sonia Valdivia, World Resources Forum, presented the Medellin declaration calling the LCA community to address marine litter.
The day ended with a workshop session on the flow of plastics to the marine environment due to dissipative uses and ends of life, which corresponds to the inventory part of the life cycle approach.

On the second day (23 May), Prof. Albert Koelmans, Wageningen University, presented the basics of a risk assessment approach for plastics in marine environment. Dr Ian Vasquez Rowe, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru, gave a perspective from his country encompassing other aspects of marine pollution and fishing activities. Small presentations completed the picture from the Institute of Waste Management and Circular Economy in Dresden, Fraunhofer Umsicht, Quantis with the “Plastic Leak Project”, and the European Joint Research Center with “Plastics LCA, overview, challenge and knowledge gaps”. A workshop session on the sustainability impacts of marine litter closed the day before a final wrap-up.

One of the key conclusions of these two half-days was that all attendees confirmed their interest in working together and in further developing the current missing link with LCA practice. Including LCA will enable decision makers to get an informed environmental overview of the life cycle of products, which will enable them to select the best possible design and stewardship options. It seems reasonable to reach a methodology and fairly good data for the inventory phase within a 1 or 2 year-time frame. At least as an operable starting point to be improved over time. On the other hand, developing methods to characterise the impact will probably require a 5 to 10-year programme.

All slides presented during this workshop are downloadable from:

FSLCI will write a public report by the end of August to be presented during their Innovation Conference in Berlin. As a follow-up, FSLCI will also create a public and free e-platform and will organise other sponsored workshops in differennt regions of the world (starting with Indonesia) to enable further exchanges and keep momentum.