PLAST – How does society deal with environmental risks? An interdisciplinary contribution to ecological transformation

The aim of the project is an interdisciplinary investigation of environmental risks through the intensive use of plastics, as well as to contribute to the limitation of risks based on the knowledge gained. Research is required in this field as potential risks haven’t been adequately examined yet. However, a good understanding of the risks and the communication thereof to all stakeholders involved (politics, economy, producers, consumers) are important prerequisites for a responsible and sustainable handling of plastic products.

This objective requires an interdisciplinary scientific collaboration. First of all, natural scientific research is required in order to identify the environmental risks associated with plastic consumption. Our focus here lies on the risks of plastic films in agriculture. Secondly, these risks need to be communicated to the stakeholders involved, usually via media. If and to what extent such communication already exists will be examined through a communication science content analysis study of relevant media.

Thirdly, psychological studies are needed to identify those factors which encourage or hinder producers (e.g. farmers) or consumers (citizens) to act in a conscientious and socio-ecological manner. The cooperation of environmental chemistry, communication science and psychology thus aims at gaining a better understanding of the environmental risks associated with intensive plastic use and to describe the prerequisites for a limitation and/or prevention of these risks based on the insights of communication science and psychology. Finally, guidelines can be developed on how scientific findings can be effectively communicated to diverse social actors.


The project is divided in three subprojects:


Plastic in the media. Risk assessments and sustainability communication in layperson and expert communication.

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Michaela Maier, Dr. Ines Welzenbach-Vogel



Mutual influences between risk assessments, attitudes and behavioral intentions in the direct and indirect use of plastic

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Manfred Schmitt


SOILPLAST – associated subproject

Sustainable preservation of the resource soil: opportunities and risks of intensive use of plastic film covers in strawberry cultivation

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Schaumann, Dr. Katherine Muñoz