Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

 

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Industry Group: You are a Representative of the American Chemistry Council

Your Background and Biography

You loved science when you were growing up. You were enthralled when your parents took you to visit the exhibits at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, and one of your most treasured possessions in childhood was your chemistry set from Edmund Scientifics. You dreamed of being a research scientist in a white coat and safety goggles, making discoveries that changed the world. However, your parents had a different plan for you: you were destined to be a doctor or a lawyer. As far as they were concerned, no other avenue to financial security and social prestige was worth considering. You packed away your dreams of a career in chemistry, went to law school, and that was that.        

You were a diligent, motivated student, and you graduated at the top of your law-school class. You spent several years with a prestigious law firm defending large corporations in high-stakes civil trials and developed into a highly skilled lawyer. You have argued in front of juries in cases with millions of dollars on the line, and you learned some valuable lessons from these experiences. Along with learning the practical matters of litigation and civil procedure you learned some intangible lessons as well: you realized that juries respond to you based not just on what you say but on how much they like you. With this in mind you’ve very carefully constructed and practiced a winning, friendly persona that allows you to convey data, facts, and analysis with an engaging and affable style. You’re good at getting people to listen to you, and you come across as intelligent and earnest without being pushy or boring.

Your growing reputation as an effective advocate opened the door to an amazing career opportunity: you recently accepted an offer to leave trial law and join the team at the Plastic Manufacturers’ Council. In your new job you combine your love for chemistry with your expertise as a lawyer by representing the plastics industry in legal, governmental, and public-relations matters. It’s your job to defend the industry against all challenges, whether they come from anti-plastic advocates, negative public opinion about plastics, or regulatory measures, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation concerning plastic waste. You would like to ensure that the plastics industry is treated advantageously in this affair, and you’re eager to use your knowledge of science to argue for the beneficial role that plastics have in contributing to our economic and physical well-being. You understand the concerns that some waste and health activists have about plastics, but you think they should treat the plastics industry as a partner in solving problems rather than as an adversary that has to be vanquished in a regulatory arena. You look forward to the opportunity to convince the EPA regulators of the importance of plastics to our way of life and of the steps that the plastics industry is already taking, and has taken, to resolve many concerns about plastics.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Regulators to include the Industry Group’s recommendations in their final regulation. To make this argument effectively, you must

  • Complete the assigned readings listed at the bottom of this page;

  • Work closely with the other members of your group to develop clear answers to the Regulators’ questions;

  • Make use of as much specific information as possible to develop strong arguments that the many societal benefits of plastics outweigh the problems and that the industry can and does regulate itself without government intervention;

  • Read as much as you can about your position and the positions of the other groups; and

  • Complete written reflections on your character, interest group, and readings as assigned. 

Your Victory Objectives

  • You will receive 10 points if the Regulators select your group’s proposal as the final regulation.

  • The Regulators will rank the interest groups by how well their goals are represented in the final regulation. You will receive between 1 and 5 points based on how the Industry Group is ranked and how well the regulation reflects your goals.

Sources

Industry Group Sources

Your Individual Sources

  • Phthalates,” American Chemistry Council Website. Website of the ACC’s High Phthalate Panel. Read the homepage and information under the “Consumer” tab.
  • Select one article from the bibliography on The Case of Plastics website recommended for the Industry Group. Read the article and write two paragraphs summarizing the article and how it will be useful to you in the upcoming debate.

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