Resource productivity and waste

Global Forum on Environment - Plastics in a Circular Economy: Design of Sustainable Plastics from a Chemicals Perspective


What's new

Following the Global Forum on Environment: Plastics in a Circular Economy - Design of Sustainable Plastics from a Chemicals Perspective, the OECD releases a working paper on Policy Approaches to Incentivise Sustainable Plastic Design.  


About the OECD Global Forum on Environment on Plastics in a Circular Economy: Design of Sustainable Plastics from a Chemicals Perspective

The OECD Global Forum on Environment on "Plastics in a Circular Economy: Design of Sustainable Plastics from a Chemicals Perspective" was held on 29-31 May 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Forum sought to incentivise a shift in sustainable chemistry thinking at the product design stage by identifying good practices, including tools and approaches, as well as a policy framework to reduce the environmental and health plastics impacts.

Global plastics production has reached 311 million metric tons and is expected to continue to grow by around 4% annually for the foreseeable future. While plastic deliver many benefits to society, there is an increasing awareness of the potential impact of chemical components of plastics on human health and the environment.

Forum documents


  1. Considerations and Criteria for Sustainable Plastics from a Chemical Perspective

  2. Technical Tools and Approaches in the Design of Sustainable Plastics

  3. Working paper on Policy Approaches to Incentivise Sustainable Plastic Design

Read the meeting report:



DAY 1 -  Tuesday 29 May 2018

Opening: High Level Session Introduction

SESSION 1: Setting the scene

Objective This session provided a common knowledge base over which to frame the discussions during the workshop. It covered an overview of the role of plastics for sustainable development, of the key polymers and additives that are currently in use, as well as the key challenges that occur at the design stage from a sustainability point of view and that affect different life-cycle stages, including end-of-life.

 SESSION 2: Sustainable Plastics Design in Practice

Objective This session highlighted examples from companies who have addressed a particular challenge with respect to chemicals/polymers and plastics by targeting the design stage. The examples will depict how chemical/polymer choice at the design stage influences aspects along the life-cycle and what solution was found or is being worked on. The presenters also shared their definition of 'sustainability' from a chemicals perspective as well as the criteria that they use to inform decision-making at the design stage.

DAY 2 -  Wednesday 30 May 2018

SESSION 3: Criteria for Defining 'Sustainability' From a Chemicals Perspective

Objective This session discussed what it means to be "sustainable" from the lens of chemical selection and material composition and how to evaluate these claims of sustainability. What are the various types of criteria that could define "sustainable" plastics when considering chemical (polymer and additive) selection.

 SESSION 4: Technical Tools and Approaches Related to Polymer and Chemical Selection at the Design Stage of the Plastic Product

Objective This session identified some of the key tools and approaches that can support sustainable plastics design that are already available, as well as important gaps that would need to be addressed. This includes technical tools, check-lists, as well as consultation mechanisms that aim to support product designers in their decision making about the selection of substances and material composition.

DAY 3 -  Thursday 31 May 2018

SESSION 5: Policy Approaches to Incentivise Sustainable Plastic Design

Objective This session focused on the policy approaches and instruments that are already in place or could be developed to incentivise a shift in sustainable chemistry thinking at the product design stage - 'benign by design'. It includes perspectives from government, the private sector and civil society about the most promising policy initiatives.






Panel 1: Voluntary Approaches (5 min highlights from each speaker)

Panel 2: Regulatory and economic instruments (5 min highlights from each speaker)


Video: Time to rethink plastic recycling

Why is only a fifth of plastic recycled? Collecting, sorting and processing waste plastic is expensive and some plastics cannot be recycled because of the hazardous chemicals used to make them. Watch our video to find out what the OECD recommends to tackle this problem.


Infographic: Plastic product design and life cycle stage

Infographic Plastic product design and life cycle stage
Click to enlarge

Related OECD Work



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