Science Based Rules on Plastic

27 - 31 January 2020

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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There is an overwhelming interest in plastic pollution as a research subject, in natural science and increasingly in social and legal science. Media attention and public awareness are also boosting, fuelling projects and lobbying by NGOs and citizens. Regulation of plastic pollution is a relatively new phenomenon: the first regulation addressing plastics specifically is the US Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. Very recently, other countries and the EU have initiated legislation targeting plastic pollution, e.g. the EU Single-use plastic directive.

On the one hand, regulation of plastic pollution may require scientific evidence, such as restricting (certain uses of) plastic as a chemical substance under the EU chemicals regulation (REACH). Questions have been raised whether the present stage of scientific evidence, in particular regarding risk assessment, would justify restrictions. On the other hand, environmental legislation, for example on circular economy, may also have other rationales, that can be found in the field of religion and philosophy, and social and economic interests. Questions have been raised what type of framing coins the ‘risk assessment frame’ or the ‘strict control frame’, and whether the ‘precautionary frame’ is wanted for plastics.

            The workshop ‘Science based rules on plastic’ brings together environmental scientists, such as (eco)toxicologists, and environmental biologists, and researchers in the legal and governance field. During the workshop the ‘problem’ of plastic pollution and the ‘solutions’ will be addressed. Is there enough scientific evidence for regulation of certain uses of plastic? Is risk assessment the optimal method and what standards should be used? Can we and should we use other rationales for regulating plastic? We will address these questions in five themes:

▪        single-use plastic;

▪        microplastics;

▪        plastic as a chemical substance and as a waste component;

▪        extended producer responsibility and liability, including life-cycle and circular economy policies;

▪        standard-setting, monitoring and reporting.

The objective of the workshop is to redefine the problem of plastic pollution in a multidisciplinary setting and reach solutions based on mutual understanding. The ultimate goal would be to achieve consensus on a set of principles on plastic pollution that could function as guidelines and as a source of inspiration for legislators and policy makers.

A thought starter will be prepared based on research that has been carried out by the Leiden Advocacy Project on Plastic. This research consists of an analysis of scientific articles and reports regarding proposed solutions and recommendations for the mitigation of plastic pollution, as well as an overview of international and national regulation of plastic pollution and its rationales. The five-day workshop requires active participation in discussion and writing. The workshop aims to establish an interdisciplinary network of experts working on solutions for plastic pollution and legal regulation. Furthermore, we wish to stimulate a future research agenda for mitigating and regulating plastic pollution.


    January 27

    Day 1 - Monday – Single-use plastics

    9.30 - 10.00    Arrival, registration and coffee

    10.00 – 10.30  Welcome by the Lorentz Center and co-organisers

    10.30 – 11.00  Keynote by Prof. Jaap Spier (Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations)

    11.00 – 12.00  Introduction of participants, organisation and what we expect to gain

    12.00 – 13.30  Lunch

    13.30 – 14.30  Introduction to theme 1. Single-use plastics: research and regulation

    (Stefano Cucurachi/Jonathan Huijts)

    14.30 – 16.00  Break out groups on theme 1. including coffee/tea break

    16.00 – 17.00  Plenary session: report of break out groups and discussion on theme 1.  and outlook for tomorrow (Esther Kentin)

    17.00 – 18.30  Wine and cheese party


    January 28

    Day 2 – Tuesday – Microplastics and plastic as a chemical substance

    9.00 – 10.00    Introduction to theme 2. Microplastics: research and regulation

    (Martina Vijver/Esther Kentin)

    10.00 – 11.30  Break out groups on theme 2. including coffee/tea break

    11.30 – 12.15  Plenary session: report of break out groups and discussion on theme 2. (Margit Heinlaan)

    12.15 – 13.30  Lunch

    13.30 – 14.30  Introduction to theme 3. Plastic as a chemical substance: research and regulation (Margit Heinlaan/Thomas de Römph)

    14.30 – 16.00  Break out groups on theme 3. including coffee/tea break

    16.00 – 16.25  Plenary session: report of break out groups and discussion on theme 3. and outlook for tomorrow (Martina Vijver)

    16:25 – 17.45  Taxi to Rijksmuseum Boerhaave: museum visit

    18.00 – 19.00  Public lecture by Thijs Bosker ‘Is Microplastic Pollution Really a Major Risk to the Environment?’ at Rijksmuseum Boerhaave with drinks afterwards


    January 29

    Day 3 – Wednesday – Extended producer responsibility and life-cycle of plastic

    9.00 – 10.00    Introduction to theme 4. Extended producer responsibility/life-cycle: research and regulation (Stefano Cucurachi/Susanne Waaijers)

    10.00 – 11.30  Break out groups on theme 4. including coffee/tea break

    11.30 – 12.30  Plenary session: report of break out groups and discussion on theme 4. and outlook for tomorrow (Jonathan Huijts)

    12.30 – 13.30  Lunch

    13.30 – 16.00  Excursion to the Peace Palace/International Court of Justice in The Hague, including visit to Visitor Center and Presentation on the Work of the Court

    16.15 – 17.30  Drinks with keynote speaker at ROOM (Prof. Nico Schrijver)

    18.00 – 20.00  Dinner at Wicked Wines


    January 30

    Day 4 – Thursday – Monitoring, reporting and standard-setting

    9.00 – 10.00    Introduction to theme 5. Monitoring, reporting and standard-setting: research and regulation (Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh /Linda Finska.)

    10.00 – 11.30  Break out groups on theme 5. including coffee/tea break

    11.30 – 12.15  Plenary session: report of break out groups and discussion on theme 5. (Alice Horton)

    12.15 – 13.30  Lunch

    13.30 – 15.30  Plenary session: synthesis of rules and principles and identification of further research; outlook for tomorrow

    15.30 – 16.00  Coffee/tea break + opportunity for serious game play by students

    16.00 – 17.00  Outlook on the prospects of ‘science rules on plastic’ (Martina Wagner/ Maja Valstar)


    January 31

    Day 5 – Friday – Science rules on plastic: agenda for future activities

    9.00 – 10.00    Plenary session: Looking back at the week (Esther/Martina)

    10.00 – 11.30  Break out groups including coffee/tea break: preparing a policy position/statement and establishing a network of scientists and lawyers working on solutions for plastic pollution

    11.30 – 12.30  Plenary session: final observations

    12.30 – 14.00  Lunch

    14.00 – 16.00  Break out groups: evaluation and planning and allocation of future activities by co-organisers and participants


    Please login to view the participants information. You have received the log in details in your registration confirmation.

    Martina Vijver, Leiden University  

    Margit Heinlaan, NICPB  

    Jonathan Huijts, Leiden University  

    Esther Kentin, Leiden University  

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