Plastics are very versatile: Their low weight makes them irreplaceable for resource-efficient products. The raw material base is slowly opening up to biogenic sources. Plastic production is growing steadily. Almost 350 million metric tons of plastics are produced worldwide.
And yet, plastic is barely appreciated by the population and is considered a disposable item. Too many plastics end up in incineration or in the ground and oceans at the end of their life. Governments and authorities around the globe are initiating government measures to combat plastics in the environment. The EU published its Plastics Strategy with far-reaching measures at the beginning of 2018. Environmental associations and stakeholders are adding plastics to the list of major environmental polluters. It is time to take action. Plastic is too valuable a material to be given a bad name. The Solution: The plastics economy must become circular.
The basic idea behind the circular plastics economy is simple:
The transition from today’s globally still largely linear system to a circular system necessitates systemic, technical, and social innovations and value creation networks that are adapted to them. This transformation is complex. It requires a plastics revolution that can only be achieved by adopting a multistakeholder approach – along and at the interfaces of the value chain.
The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence sets the course for the transition from a linear to a circular plastics economy. The Fraunhofer Institutes UMSICHT (management), IAP, ICT, IML, and LBF launched the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence “Circular Plastics Economy“ in November 2018.
They develop system capabilities for the circular plastics economy. The research cluster will run for five years and will be consolidated as a virtual institute.
What is new is that science is intertwined with business development in the cluster right from the start in order to provide market-relevant prototypes. Fraunhofer UMSICHT invites stakeholders from industry and science to help shape this virtual institute for a circular plastics economy and to collaborate on solutions within the research cluster.
Fraunhofer Clusters of Excellence combine the competencies of institutes to investigate relevant topics with scientific excellence. The aim is to establish virtual institutes with international visibility.