Lisa Zimmermann and Lukas Sattlegger accepted the main prize for their dissertations in the Faculty of Biological Sciences and Social Sciences, respectively, at Goethe University. Both completed their theses in the course of their research work in “PlastX”. This junior research group for Social Ecological Research (SÖF), funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, was anchored at ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt from 2015 to 2021 and was led by Johanna Kramm and Carolin Völker. The research in PlastX was interdisciplinary with the aim to investigate from different perspectives the risks associated with plastic material in the course of its production, use and disposal.
In his dissertation in sociology, Lukas Sattlegger is dealing with the difficulties and potentials of packaging avoidance. From a practice-theoretical perspective, he looks at the question of how people in the food trade work and deal with packaging. For this purpose, Sattlegger conducted ethnographic research in various areas of the food trade and identified a multitude of packaging functions, especially in the realm of supermarkets, which have to be taken into account when it comes to achieving transformation towards more sustainable packaging. Professors Birgit Blättel-Mink and Thomas Scheffer (Faculty 03 – Social Sciences at Goethe University) reviewed Sattlegger’s “Analysis of the Relationship between Workers and Plastic”. Here, he shows that plastic cannot simply be abolished, but that new practices for dealing with plastic substitutes must first be developed.
Risks of plastic consumption: social and natural science perspective
Lisa Zimmermann received the main prize for her scientific study of plastic products in the field of aquatic ecotoxicology. The reviewers Carolin Völker and Jörg Oehlmann, professor at Faculty 15 – Biological Sciences, point out the comprehensive toxicological and chemical characterization of the chemical mixtures that Zimmermann was able to detect in a large number of everyday plastics. More than 1400 chemicals could be detected in the ordinary products made of conventional plastics that she examined, as well as in products made of biobased and biodegradable materials. The PlastX researcher was able to show that the majority of these components cannot be identified by chemical analysis and are therefore not taken into account in risk assessments. Her study shows that even the “organic alternatives” that are considered more sustainable contain problematic substitutes.
The Goethe University Environmental Awards were presented on 21 November 2022 in the Renate von Metzler Hall (Casino) on the Westend Campus.