Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Sustainability

Sustainability

Biopolymer Pellets

Biopolymer pellets, pictured here, are made of natural materials and biodegrade more readily than petroleum-based plastics.

You understand concerns about plastic, but getting rid of plastics is not the solution. Your group of recycling reformers, bioplastic developers, and biodegradability experts is using innovation to solve the problems of plastic. You believe the government should invest in your sustainable projects rather than limit plastic production.

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?

Plastic-to-Oil Recycling Pioneer

An engineer who developed technology to return plastic to its constituent parts, allowing for fuel recovery.

Plastic Recycling Reformer

An engineer who developed a new recycling method that is more efficient and sustainable than traditional recycling.

Corn-Based Bioplastic Executive

A corporate leader who runs a highly successful company producing corn-based plastics for the rapidly expanding sustainable materials market.

Bioplastics Innovator

An inventor of a bioplastic made by the action of microbes on plant material that, if the process can be conducted on a large scale, would lead to true sustainability.

Scientist Investigating Biodegradability

A scientist who is working on the development of microorganisms that break down plastics in an effort to reinvent the plastic disposal landscape.