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Panel On Circular Economy Businesses in The Mediterranean



Plastics have become an integral part of the food value chain due to their attractiveness as a packaging material that is at once high performing and inexpensive. However, the widespread use of plastic has led to a new global environmental challenge: plastics and other synthetic materials are the leading sources of marine litter in the world’s oceans, having serious impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems.  This panel brings together key experts from the public and private sectors as well as academia to discuss the current state of plastics in the food value chain in the Mediterranean and to identify potential solutions to problem of plastic waste that draw on the principles of circular economy and that are underpinned by market and regulatory tools.




This session aimed to:

  1. Emphasize the environmental and social impacts caused by plastics in food value chains and the economic burden to tackle those impacts;
  2. Review solutions, especially market based eco innovative solutions to tackle plastics material flow based on the circular economy approach;
  3. Discuss barriers and challenges around putting market based solutions in place in the context of both North and South Mediterranean countries.


Panel Discussion & Outcomes

Moderator: Burcu Tunçer, UNEP MAP Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC)





 Panel on Circular Economy: from left to right Burcu TunçerStefano FaccoHasso von PogrellJames PenningtonPaola Migliorini and Maria Cristina Fossi


Recalling that the Mediterranean is the area of the world that is most affected by marine litter, Maria Cristina Fossi introduced the initiative Plastic Busters, the first project at the basin scale that binds the Southern and Northern Mediterranean countries on the issue of marine litter, including consideration of microplastics. The project aims to assess the amount, sources, pathways, distribution convergence areas and effects of marine litter (in indicator organisms), and mitigate and reduce the impact of marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea. The UfM labelled project is led by the University of Sienna, in collaboration with leading institutions from the region.


Download the presentation here.


Paola Migliorini introduced participants to the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy, which is being developed to address the production, consumption, reuse and waste management of plastics.  The strategy will encompass a broad range of guidelines including the smart design of plastics (no toxins, no microplastics), the use of legislation to support safe and sustainable use of plastics, and calls for transparency in advertising including for claims about biodegradable plastics. Finally, additional guidance will be provided to consumers to implicate them in the process by informing them about the things they can do to help ensure plastics are used wisely and to their full potential.


Download the presentation here.


Next, James Pennington presented the World Economic Forum’s perspective on opportunities for circular economy and recommendations from the “New Plastics Economy report?.  According to the report, the most promising approaches to getting plastics out of the ocean are to improve the after-use economics of plastics, replace plastics with eco-friendly materials, and to up-cycle the plastics that have fulfilled their purpose.


Download the presentation here.


Hasso von Pogrell spoke about how bioplastics can contribute to a circular economy, bring the perspective of European Bioplastics, the European Association representing the industry producing, converting and using bioplastics in Europe. After a primer on the different types of bioplastics, Hasso demonstrated the wide-ranging applications for which bioplastics are currently being used (packaging, bags, catering, agriculture, consumer goods, …) and the broad range of plastic waste treatment (mechanical recycling, organic recycling in composting plants, chemical recycling, energy recovery, …). In closing, Hasso recalled that bioplastics are not a solution to the marine litter problem, but rather an alternative to other plastics and that all waste streams need to be managed in a manner to prevent them from entering and disrupting terrestrial or marine ecosystems.

 Download the presentation here.


Stefano Facco provided another private sector experience, discussing Novamont and its work to integrate chemicals and agriculture through the development of innovative bioplastics based on renewable resources that are biodegradable and compostable.

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"we are at the edge of new chemistry area, based on starch, sunflower oil and suger producing new polymers, we dont need financial support for this new economy, we need rules we need targets and waste management!" Stefano Facco


Following the presentations, the moderator chose two questions for the panel that had been submitted by audience members via handwritten notecards and the switchmed twitter feed:


-       Question about how bioplastics may compete with food supplies

-       Question about banning plastics in Europe


Watch the hole panel video here.