Abstract for: What are Sustainable Plastics? A Review of Interrelated Problems and Solutions.

Plastics are affordable and versatile, but there is a growing awareness that they are not sustainable in various ways, including concerns around climate, health and biodiversity. A number of solutions are being investigated that could enable a more sustainable plastics system. So far, most research has focused on isolated technical solutions that focus on one specific sustainability challenge of those posed by plastics, e.g. only on end-of-life management or feedstock alternatives to fossil fuels. Some interventions might alleviate one problem but contribute to another one at a different step of the plastic life cycle. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of potential solutions' impacts on the plastics system, highlighting how some interventions could end up causing unintended consequences, perhaps even worse than the previous system. The study is based on a literature review and adopts qualitative system dynamics to analyse the issue with a holistic approach.