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Research and innovation

Plastics in a circular economy

The plastics strategy is part of the Commission's circular economy package. What the EU is doing, how to find funding, examples of successful projects and latest news.

The Commission’s plan for plastics

In 2018, the Commission adopted the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy

The strategy is part of a wider plan to develop a circular economy and the comes from the 2015 Circular Economy Action Plan which identified plastics as a priority area.

This included proposals to modernise EU waste legislation which were agreed in December 2017.

Why the strategy is needed

Our society, economy and environment are all negatively affected by the way plastics are currently designed, produced, used and discarded.

The amount of plastic litter is growing, hurting marine ecosystems, biodiversity and potentially human health.

The strategy pursues an ambitious approach for plastic packaging recyclability and contains a strong response on microplastics which are a significant source of marine pollution.

Single-use plastics: towards new rules to reduce marine litter

The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a provisional political agreement on new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

27 LUGLIO 2023
Research and innovation solutions to tackle marine litter


Strengthening the role of science in plastics policy making

Experts from across the plastics value chain have developed policy recommendations and identified research and innovation priorities for transitioning towards a circular economy for plastics. These insights are based on evidence extracted from EU-funded projects and the wider scientific community and are included in the report A circular economy for plastics.

There are 2 opinions by the Commission’s independent Group of Chief Scientific Advisors

Finally there is a review of literature on microplastics in the foodchain by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).


Funding for plastics research and innovation

The Commission has identified a range of measures to implement the plastics strategy. Several are relevant for research and innovation.

For the period 2018-2020, the remaining years of Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation framework programme, about €100 million has been allocated to projects directly related to the plastics strategy.

This funding comes on top of the €250 million already spent on plastics-related projects through Horizon 2020.

Beyond 2020, work is being carried out to further develop plastics-related systemic innovation into business models, products and materials for the next framework programme, Horizon Europe.

How to find plastics funding in Horizon 2020.


Ocean Plastics Lab exhibition

The Ocean Plastics Lab is an exhibition that showcases the contribution of science in understanding and combating the problem of plastics in the ocean.

The Commission co-organised with the German ministry the exhibition in many different locations. At the exhibition there were presentations of 15 EU-funded research projects related to marine plastic, microplastic and pollution.

Ocean Plastics Lab website




9 MARZO 2020
A circular economy for plastics (Infographic)
(51.38 KB - HTML)


Opportunities for innovation - the plastics value chain (Factsheet)
(174.88 KB - PDF)