Tackling the Plastic Problem

Responsible and environmentally friendly use of plastic is one of the pressing, global challenges of our time. Since 2018, the non-profit Röchling Foundation has been giving this complex topic its full concentration. It supports research projects and civil society initiatives that together make effective contributions to solving the problem of plastic and the environment.

1 Atlantic Ocean, from the Cape Verde Islands to the Caribbean
Microbiologist Dr. Rüdiger Stöhr from the environmental organization One Earth – One Ocean e.V. escorts the floating classroom of the OceanCollege across the Atlantic. On the windjammer, he teaches students all about plastic in the ocean. In their own scientific work, they analyze the water samples collected along the route for microplastics using an infrared spectrometer.

2 Madrid, Calle Ramiro de Maeztu
At the Center for Biological Research (CIB) in the Spanish capital Madrid, Dr. Federica Bertocchini continues her work, which has been causing an international stir since 2017: she is researching the ability of wax moth larvae to disintegrate certain plastics without leaving any residue.

3 India, Sundarbans, West Bengal
On the border with Bangladesh, garbage collection centers are being built in local communities in the Sun­darbans, the largest protected mangrove forests in the world. This is where local garbage collectors can dump their “booty.” The waste is presorted and sold to recycling companies in other parts of the country. A form of cooperative waste management system has developed.

4 Kalkscheune, Johannisstraße, Mitte district, Berlin, Germany
Decision-makers from the plastics industry, trade, science and the most important environmental protection organizations are meeting to open up a dialog between stakeholders. The objective of the gathering is to consolidate the many initiatives aiming to reduce plastic in the environment into a common, coordinated agenda. Greater impact through joint action.

What do all these locations, people and activities have in common? They are supported by the Röchling Foundation.
“There is no single solution for the problem of plastic and the environment. The challenge is intelligently combining a number of effective approaches,” explains Annunziata Gräfin Hoensbroech, who is Chairperson of the Röchling Foundation Board of Trustees.

As far as she is concerned, this issue is not suffering due to a lack of attention. Quite the opposite. The problem of plastic waste polluting the environment is making the headlines on a daily basis, whether they are reporting on spectacular ideas for cleaning up the oceans, new scientific findings on microplastics or bans on single-use products in more and more countries. Willingness to participate in the various initiatives is also high. The problem is that they are generally not coordinated, and there is a lack of consensus for a common approach.

“The fight against climate change is also insufficient. But at least with the two-degree limit, we now have a single global goal. We are still a long way off a global plastics agenda, on the other hand,” notes the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. In response to this, the Röchling Foundation is not just investing in individual projects and initiatives, but increasingly sees itself as a cooperative benefactor. As an independent and non-profit foundation, it wants to contribute towards mutually beneficial education initiatives to change consumer behavior, industry efforts to improve the recycling economy and research into new materials.

“Complex, global problems cannot be effectively counteracted with individual activities, no matter how well-intentioned they seem,” says Gräfin Hoensbroech. This is why she and her colleagues on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees always ask if and how the initiators of these projects work together with other organizations – ideally beyond the boundaries of business, science, politics and civil society – when they are deciding whether to offer financial support.

5 Mainz, Germany, Zahlbach district
At the Grundschule an den Römersteinen elementary school, the children have a zero-waste breakfast. This was something they decided to do themselves. They expressed at a children’s conference that they wanted adults to be more environmentally aware. An environmental educator will now help the primary school children in Mainz fulfill their commitment. This is one of many campaigns that are being implemented at elementary schools throughout Germany as part of the “A cycle for plastics: your ideas – our joint future!” program.

The program was co-founded by the Stiftung Bildung (Education Foundation) and the Röchling Foundation. The Stiftung Bildung contributes its expertise in youth participation and mobilizes its network, through which it has contact with almost all elementary schools and daycare centers in Germany. In addition to money, the Röchling Foundation is mainly contributing its experience from many projects addressing the topic of plastic and the environment.

Over the coming months and years, the Röchling Foundation wants to systematically expand its network and is also searching for other allies who are willing to collectively invest in the establishment of a global plastics agenda.


Annunziata Gräfin von und zu Hoensbroech

Chairperson of the Board of Röchling Foundation

Phone: +49 621 4402-0



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