Narrating Plastics Governance: Policy Narratives in the European Plastics Strategy

Ellen Palm, Jacob Hasselbalch*, Karl Holmberg, Tobias Dan Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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The European Union (EU) aspires to be an important global agenda-setter on how to treat and regulate the growing plastics problem. We present an analysis of the plastic policy narratives shaping European plastics governance, in particular through the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy. Our aim is to first uncover the policy narratives at play, and then examine how actors make use of those narratives through strategic construction. Based on interviews with key stakeholders and document analysis, we identify four narratives: fossil feedstock dependency, resource inefficiency, pollution, and toxicity. We find that the resource inefficiency and pollution narratives figure most prominently in European plastics governance, and that the circular economy is being advanced as a policy solution that cuts across the different narratives. However, surface agreement on the need for ‘circularity’ hides deeper-lying ideological divisions over what exactly the circular economy means and the different directions this implies for plastics governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)365-385
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Policy narratives
  • Plastics
  • Circular Economy
  • Narrative policy framework
  • Strategic construction
  • Europeans commission

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