Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Waste-Activist-Blogger

Waste-Activist-Blogger

 

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Waste Group: You are an Anti-Waste Activist and Blogger

Your Background and Biography

You have always wanted to be an investigative journalist.  As a child, adults laughed a bit at your earnestness in announcing your goals, but as you grew up, people started taking you more seriously when you expressed your passion for investigative journalism. They could tell you meant what you said.

You diligently practice writing and research, but you were frustrated in your quest for a cause to apply your passion to. Then one day you performed an experiment that changed your life. Inspired by a documentary about plastic waste, you began to pay attention to how much of your very normal American existence was saturated with disposable plastics. As an experiment you went through an entire day carefully counting, identifying, and listing everything you touched that was made of plastic.

During breakfast you noticed that almost everything you put in your mouth came out of plastic packaging. At school it seemed like everything you touched—light switches, pens, notebook covers, desks, chairs, lunch trays, and even sports equipment—was made of plastic. When you played with your baby brother after school, you couldn’t believe how much plastic you touched. Diapers, bottles, pacifiers, and the mountains of toys he had to play with were all made out of plastic.

You posted your thoughts on your blog, and the results were astounding. Your post about plastics, which you had called “Plastics Saturate My Life,” became a viral hit. It was tweeted and retweeted and shared on Facebook, and it inspired many people who read it to replicate your experiment. When you saw how many readers seemed motivated to take action but were unsure of what to do, you realized you had found your cause. You quickly renamed your blog “The No Plastic Zone,” and you gained a following as an anti-plastic activist. As a senior in college, you began encouraging readers among your now-sizable following to participate in the “No Plastic Challenge,” which asked them to go for a full month without generating any plastic waste. As a result you were interviewed for the New York Times environment blog, and traffic to your blog multiplied exponentially. You feel like you’re making a difference in the world by helping people reduce their plastic-waste production, and you’ve found that your blog has helped start your full-fledged career as a journalist. The popularity of your blog attracted interest from publishers, and your book, Living in the No Plastic Zone, will be published in just a few months.

Your blog has given you a thorough understanding of the problems of plastic waste, and you’re seen by many fellow activists as an important voice in the plastics debate. Perhaps this is why you’ve been asked to speak at a hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation.  You hope you can use this opportunity to make a real difference in reducing the plastic waste that is so hazardous to our environment, and you certainly expect to get some good material from the experience.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Regulators to include the Waste 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 for your position that plastics are extremely harmful to the environment and that reducing production and consumption is the only effective solution to the problem;

  • 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 Waste Group is ranked and how well the regulation reflects your goals.

Sources

Waste Group Sources

Your Individual Sources

  • Plastic Bags Are Killing Us,” by Katharine Mieszkoski, Salon, August 10, 2007

  • Select one article from the bibliography on The Case of Plastics website recommended for the Waste 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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