Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

New polymers have allowed importance advancements in medicine and technology.

New polymers have allowed importance advancements in medicine and technology.

Plastics and the work of polymer scientists have dramatically advanced fields like medicine, transportation, and communications. As one of those scientists, you know that plastics make life better in thousands of ways. Though you understand concerns about plastic waste, you worry government regulation will hamper development of new technologies.

Read the Original Regulation and your group’s Goals and Recommendations for the final regulation, and use them to prepare answers to the following questions, which the Regulators will ask during the Hearing:

1.    Recycling in the United States is currently a function of municipal governments. Who should be responsible for plastic waste? Should the producers of plastics bear more of a burden than the consumers? What is the role of individual responsibility in addressing the matter of plastic waste?

2.    Only a small percentage of plastic waste in the United States is recovered for recycling, meaning most plastic trash goes into landfills. What is the best way to reduce the amount of plastic entering the waste stream? Is curbside recycling the best option? Do we need to develop new methods of recycling and fuel recovery? Or is reducing plastic production and consumption the best way to reduce waste?

3.    The goal of this hearing is to create a federal regulation that will effectively address concerns about plastics. What issues would governmental regulation of plastics most effectively address? What can be accomplished without governmental regulation that would improve the way we use and dispose of plastics? What new problems might result from these regulations?

4.    What historical cases, examples, or evidence provide useful lessons about the successes or failures of addressing the impact and implications of our uses of plastics?

5.    Do the problems caused by our use of plastics outweigh the benefits that they provide?

Accomplished Polymer Scientist 

An accomplished scientist whose achievements in polymers made cell phones and other electronic devices possible.

Inventor of New Polymers

An inventor whose polymer developments have applications in medicine, space exploration, textiles, and electronics.

Polymer Scientist—Medical Applications

The cofounder of a successful research company that develops polymers for medical applications.

Polymer Scientist Interested in Innovation

A scientist who works in research and development for a chemical company to improve the use of polymers in new technologies.

Plastic Bridge Developer

A structural engineer who has designed and built plastic bridges for government clients and who wants to promote the wider adoption of plastic bridges.

Famous Inventor of Medical Equipment

An entrepreneur who has helped advance medical treatment through inventions and who credits her/his success to the availability and versatility of polymers.