Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Plastics in Nature and Society: an early career perspective on the plastic challenges (POSTPONED)

Date: 28 June 2020 - 04 July 2020
Location: Ede, The Netherlands

Course moved to June-July 2021
Due to the current conditions, the organising committee feels they cannot safely organise an internationally orientated course this year. We have decided to move the course to next year, when we hope that international travel will be possible. This also gives us and our invited speakers more time to deal with the additional work that Corona has brought on to them.

We are also discussing if we are able to hold a half day/single day online event on this topic; probably in the fall. We cannot guarantee we are able to do this, but we will do our best.
Please keep checking in on this website about the status of the PhD course next year, and the online event. If you are interested in the online event and want to be put on an email list; mail to with online Plastics event in the title. The same for the summer course: mail us with PhD course on Plastics in Nature and Society in the title. We will then email you in case of any news.

We hope you stay healthy, and hope to see you soon.

Short description
The course offers a multi-disciplinary learning platform for early career researchers on the various aspects and challenges related to plastic use and pollution. Specific attention will be given to understanding the state-of-the-art in environmental and social sciences approaches related to plastic, interaction with scientific experts from both domains, and with expert stakeholders from different institutions.

Confirmed lecturers
Bart Koelmans Wageningen University
Lesley Henderson Brunel University London
Silke Gabbert Wageningen University
Erik van Sebille Utrecht University
Tim van Emmerik Wageningen University
Merel Kooi Wageningen University

Plastics are omnipresent in our modern daily lives. Besides their usefulness, e.g. as packaging material for food or the various uses of plastics in modern transport systems, the increasing production volume of plastics, and the growing amounts of plastic litter, have become a cause of global concern. During the past decade, the scientific knowledge about plastics has increased tremendously. New insights on plastic emissions, transport, fate, exposure and effects of plastics are complemented by research on impacts, damage costs, public perceptions and social norms, and policy making. Despite the rapid expansion of research on plastics, current knowledge remains to be incomplete. This raises a number of fundamental questions: Is there a problem related to the use of plastics, and what kind of problems can we identify? What are major challenges related to plastic use in modern societies? What are relevant perspectives for addressing these challenges? How can we as (young) scientists address these challenges? What opportunities may this generate for our personal career paths?
This summer school offers an interactive, multi-disciplinary learning platform to address these questions. You will explore different scientific perspectives to the plastic problem. In particular, you will gain insight into approaches and recent developments in environmental sciences and social sciences. This will enable you to discover the links and synergies between research lines within both research fields, but also between these fields. Furthermore, you will work towards your own perspective on the challenges related to plastics, and reflect in groups with other participants and invited experts about opportunities for your personal research path.

Contents and learning goals
The main goal of the course is to enable young researchers to develop a science-based perspective on the challenges related to plastic use. Participants will gain insight into the current state-of-the-art regarding research, addressing approaches and outcomes generated in the environmental and social sciences, and identifying links and synergies between these research domains. In small working groups participants will elaborate on a specific question, defined by themselves, from different perspectives. Furthermore, experts in relevant domains and from different institutions share their knowledge and experiences, giving room for inspiring discussions. This will equip participants to orientate themselves in the multi-disciplinary landscape of plastic research, and to integrate these insights into their own research and career paths. 

Learning goals
After this course, participants:
• Have gained an overview of fundamental questions, approaches and the state-of-knowledge in environmental and social sciences research on plastics;
• Have explored different scientific, policy and social challenges related to plastics;
• Have gained insight into the opportunities and challenges of inter- and multi-disciplinary research on plastics, and the required research and inter-personal skills skills;
• Have developed an own viewpoint on these challenges and how this can be embedded in their personal research path (e.g. their PhD research)
You will work in small teams and have regular interaction with experts from the relevant domains and from different institutions. Team-work will be supported by short lectures, reflection moments, demonstrations, excursions, open-round discussions with experts,
At the end of the course, participants will have written a viewpoint paper addressing key perspectives and challenges of plastic use now and in the future.
Course set-up
In an interactive learning programme, you will be actively engaged during the course days,. Most lecturers, especially the Wageningen based lecturers, will be present for multiple days to ensure a strong interaction can take place.
In preparation to the course, you will be expected to read several papers (estimated time investment before the course: 8-10 hours

General information

Target groupPhD candidates
Group sizeMax. 25 participants
Course duration7 days (including evening of the first course day)
Intended credits2.5 ECTS
For those that are finalizing the opinion paper(s) after the course, more credits can be awarded depending on the time spend after the course has ended
Self study hoursApproximately 8-10 hours

Bart Koelmans Wageningen University
Lesley Henderson Brunel University London 
Silke Gabbert Wageningen University
Erik van Sebille Utrecht UniversityTim van Emmerik Wageningen University
Merel Kooi Wageningen University

VenueHotel Bosrand, Ede, the Netherlands
More informationPeter Vermeulen

Registration form

PosterClick here

Preliminary topics (may change as the speakers are confirmed and the program is finalized; we will update this website regularly):
• Plastic risk assessment
• Plastic risk perception
• Quantifying microplastics: measurements and modelling
• Quantifying effects
• How to write an opinion paper

General set up of course days
Sunday 28th: arrival at hotel de Bosrand Ede, between 17:00-19:00. Diner at 19:00. Introductions after dinner
Monday-Friday: full day courses, including a light evening program of ± 2 hours
Saturday 4th of July: Final presentations; course concluded with a lunch; course ends at ± 13:30


Course feeEarly bird Fee *Regular Fee **
WIMEK, WUR, and PE&RC PhD with approved TSP € 375€ 425
SENSE PhD with approved TSP
WIMEK Postdocs
€ 750€ 800
Other PhD candidates€ 830€ 880
All others€ 910€ 960
*Deadline early bird fee: 31 March 2020. Regular deadline: 30th April 2020. Fee includes study and training material, accommodation, food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and coffee and tea. Accommodation is a shared hotel room (shared with one other participant).
**Regular deadline= 30th of April 2020 

Cancellation condition
You may cancel free of charge up to the 31st of March. If you cancel after then 31th of March, but before the 30th of April, we will charge you 25% of the registration fee. If you cancel after the 30th of April, but before the course starts we will charge you 50% of the fee, unless
• you can find someone to replace you in the course and supply the course coordinator with the name and contact information of your replacement. In this case you will only be charged a € 50,- cancellation fee.
• you (PhDs and postdocs of Wageningen University and PE&RC) have a valid reason to cancel (illness or death in the family 1st or 2nd degree). 
In this case you will be charged the reduced fee and your supervisor/PI must send a mail indicating the reason for cancellation. 

In case of a no show, you will be charged the full fee. 

At registration, you will be asked to upload a motivation letter and a resume. In the motivation letter, please explain (1) why do you want to participate, (2) how does the course relate to your research (interest) and (3) what do you expect to get out of the course. 

Those of you who have registered before the 31th of March, will get the confirmation of their participation before 14th of April. After the 31th, and if the course is not yet full, decisions will be made on a case to case basis. 

For more information please contact