"The damage potential is not just an aesthetic problem in the environment - we're talking about a „plastocalypse”, said Andreas Köhler from “Öko-Institut e.V.”, Freiburg."It`s an irreversible environmental pollution with global dimensions and high ecological damage potential."
Around 120 participants met from June 17 to 19 for the 25th DBU Summer Academy in Loccum for discussing the worldwide plastic waste problem. It was conducted in cooperation with “Evangelischen Akademie“, Loccum and „Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik UMSICHT“, Oberhausen. The Summer Academy underlined the importance of need for action to reduce plastic waste in the environment. “Recycling concepts are essential. A comprehensive approach is important to fund projects across multiple funding themes", said DBU-secretary general Alexander Bonde, while explaining the foundation's position.
"About eight million tons of plastic wastes end up in the oceans every year," said Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius from the “Alfred-Wegener-Institut” in Bremerhaven. Recently, she also became trustee of the DBU. Even in the deep sea, plastic is accumulated. Microorganisms that decompose plastic do not exist there. "If microorganisms can´t decompose something, it does not belong to nature", said Boetius. Incidentally, Germany is part of the problem: 10 percent of the garbage on Spitsbergen's coasts originated from Germany. "Generally, about 80 percent of the waste in the individual ocean areas came from the next coast," explained Boetius.
But what are the causes of the plastic inputs into the environment? One major factor is abrasion of tires from cars, with microplastic being released into the environment. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles in the range of micrometer to millimeter. Jürgen Bertling from the “Fraunhofer Institut UMSICHT” said: "In Germany, around 127,000 tonnes of microplastic emissions per year come from abrasion of tires from cars." According to Bertling, plastic emissions are particularly high in city centers, where cars often have to stop or to slow down. Olaf Lies from the Ministry of Environment in Lower Saxony and DBU trustee spoke about a major social responsibility: "Today's action will have consequences for many centuries." He is convinced that managing of waste reduction is only possible by legislation. "A legal framework can create competitive advantages for those who make an effort," says Lies. Reinhard Schneider from “Werner & Mertz GmbH” produces cleaning agents such as those of the "Frosch" brand. During his talk he showed examples from his company. Nowadays, plastic waste can be recycled instead of using crude oil for the production of new plastics.
On the second day of the Summer Academy, solutions for plastic problems were presented and developed in three workshops. At the final panel discussion, Dr. Bärbel Naderer from “kunststoffland NRW e. V.”, Düsseldorf said that consumers and economists both have a duty to act. Also, more and more companies became aware of their responsibility. Many of them intend to provide more accessible solutions. It is essential to use this together. Dr. Lilian Busse from “Umweltbundesamt” in Dessau (UBA, Federal Environment Agency), requested more communication. Also she stated: "We have conducted enough studies - now we have to implement its results."
Six pupils from the Ursula School Osnabrück ("climate ambassadors") have undertaken a film project and interviewed the speakers during the event.
The movie can be found on YouTube: here
Photos of the Summer Academy on Flickr: here