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A common European framework to harmonise procedures for plastics pollution monitoring and assessments


The aim of this action is to develop a common European framework to harmonise procedures for plastics pollution monitoring and assessments. This action should do so by bringing together the main national research groups in the field of physicochemical analysis of plastics in the environment, covering nano-, micro- and macro-plastics, to present jointly designed process proposals for the determination of plastics in different environmental matrices. A critical mass of actors and increased synergies between all relevant research areas (e.g. marine, surface, groundwater, drinking and waste water, soil, air), industry, regulators, associations and relevant EU services and standardisation bodies will be a key element to address the challenge. It is expected that different sampling, extraction and analysis methods are evaluated for their suitability and feasibility (availability, cost-effectiveness, quality of data generated) for use within future monitoring activities.

This action should ensure adequate flexibility for taking into account all relevant aspects prior to formal standardisation procedures and provide:

a) harmonised methods for sampling, sample preparation and analytical detection of different kind of plastics in different environmental compartments and connected matrices, including realistic matrix reference materials;

b) methods for monitoring to enable a comprehensive inventory to be carried out to classify the occurrence, to identify emission and pollution priorities and to determine changes in the occurrence by means of subsequent investigations;

c) methods for identification and analysis of plastics in the environment;

d) proposals as a basis for international and European standards (ISO / CEN);

e) recommendations for future relevant EU policy and legislation;;

f) increased knowledge on the occurrence of plastics in the environment with respect to related questions, such as physical and chemical adverse effects on biota.

In addition, this action should deliver guidance on data management, including the need for relevant infrastructures, cooperation on sharing data, creation of joint databases and the promotion of meta-analysis of existing data. This action does not involve data collection. It should also inform future strategic programming for research and innovation for plastics by identifying knowledge gaps and needs.

​This topic is in support of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Selected projects under this topic as well as projects selected under other topics in H2020 supporting the Plastics Strategy are strongly encouraged to participate in joint activities as appropriate. These joint activities could take the form of clustering of projects, participation in workshops, common exploitation and dissemination etc. The projects should describe how they will be complementary with already existing relevant national activities or other multilateral activities funded by the EU or funded jointly by several Member States. The proposals are expected to demonstrate support to common coordination and dissemination activities. Applicants should plan the necessary budget to cover those activities without the prerequisite to define concrete common actions at this stage.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

To develop long-term solutions to reduce plastic pollution, a thorough understanding of the emission problem is important, including consistent monitoring and mapping of plastic litter. These activities are indeed necessary in order to enable a comprehensive inventory to be carried out to classify the occurrence, to identify pollution priorities and to determine changes in the occurrence by means of subsequent investigations. At present, there are no harmonised EU-wide methods for determining the composition and occurrence of plastics in various relevant environmental compartments (e.g. marine waters, marine sediments, freshwater, soil, air). A commonly accepted terminology is the prerequisite for data comparability, collaboration, meta-level analysis and assessment. Rather than continuing to have different organisations and bodies at international, European and Member State level proposing their own definitions, a coordinated approach needs to be promoted. With research on the scale of the problem rapidly evolving, a systematic collection of available data and a critical assessment is missing.

The project results are expected to contribute to:

  • achieving the objectives of the EU Plastics Strategy, in particular with regard to the possibilities for future prioritisation of measures in Europe and to the possibilities of reviewing their effectiveness in terms of reducing emissions, and contributing to the implementation of Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda foreseen in that strategy;
  • fostering innovative policymaking through robust methodologies and uniformed tools and reduction of analytical uncertainties;
  • bringing the EU to the forefront of international discussion and collaboration in the field of plastic pollution monitoring and assessing through the know-how generated (planned publications and templates for standardisation procedures);
  • improving the economic viability of analytical instrument manufacturers;
  • establishing a framework and foundation for the implementation of European and global level monitoring programmes for nano-, micro- and macro-plastic.