Accepted paper:

Plastic matters: the material politics of microplastics at the Environment Agency Austria


Artemis Papadaki-Anastasopoulou (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation explores the material politics of microplastics; how they become a matter of concern in the Environment Agency Austria and how classification practices matter. By attending to the procedural materialities of plastics it unfolds the entanglements of plastics, humans and environments.

Paper long abstract:

Microplastics are small plastic particles found in oceans, lakes, rivers, soil or air. They are an emerging environmental issue due to the uncertain risks they may pose to humans and wildlife. Plastics have a unique materiality which has been described as a process rather than fixed or stable. Their materiality is enacted and realised in divergent environments. In the past years there have been discussions on how to regulate plastics on a European Level. In 2016 the Interest Group Plastics was founded as part of the European Network of the Environmental Protection Agencies. The Environment Agency Austria (EAA) is an active actor in the Interest Group with leading projects on microplastics in the environment. On the one hand, their laboratories seek to monitor microplastics and explore their impact and risk, with efforts to classify microplastics becoming key in understanding the phenomenon. On the other hand, the EAA is engaged in developing strategies for policy-makers and industrial stakeholders. In other words, they work at the intersections of laboratory science, policy and industry. Exploring how the materiality of microplastics is realised in the EAA and how microplastics become a matter of concern is the focus of this presentation. By conducting interviews with the actors of the EAA this study is exploring the 'material politics' of microplastics. The aim is to make a contribution to STS studies on plastics and to explore deeper the material entanglements of plastics, humans and environments in contemporary societies.

panel A12
Meet our chemicals: ubiquitous presence, selective views