Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Regulators

Regulators

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. The regulation on plastic waste must do both in a manageable way. You have released a draft regulation for public comment, and now you will hear feedback from experts on all sides. You will listen to their arguments and select the regulation that is most practical and effective.

Carefully read the Original Regulation, which you have released for public comment, so you can identify the changes proposed by each group and address their concerns and suggestions. Then review the following questions, which you will ask each group during the Hearing before developing questions of your own:

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?

Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response

The person responsible for the EPA’s hazardous-waste and solid-waste programs, the highest-ranking official at this hearing.

Director, Resource Conservation and Recovery Division

The person responsible for all programs relating to hazardous waste, municipal solid waste, and sustainable materials management.

Director, Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division

An individual interested in the recovery of solid waste, including plastics.

Director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division

An individual concerned with the sustainable use of resources, emphasizing recycling, recovery, and reuse.

Director, Science Coordination and Policy Division

The person who oversees the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.