Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Waste-Artist-Activist

Waste-Artist-Activist

 

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

Your Background and Biography

You make art from everyday objects, especially ones that have been thrown away. You are the youngest of five children, and your family struggled financially during your childhood. There was never enough money for art classes or supplies, and so you used what you had. First, you focused on pencil and paper drawings, but as a teenager you discovered collages and sculpture. For materials you turned to your family trash—junk mail, empty cans, food labels, anything you could find. You quickly became fascinated with transforming something that others considered valueless into something beautiful.

Your art led to an interest in trash and waste disposal. You began to notice the trash on your streets and wondered why no one seemed to care. You wanted to inspire people to clean up the streets. During your senior year of high school you campaigned for your school to begin a recycling program. To express yourself, you created your first public art exhibition. You and several other students created artwork from trash found on the streets. The effort was a success on several levels: your sculpture was the centerpiece of the exhibit, and the school adopted your recycling proposal.

Your passionate work led to a college scholarship to study art, and over the years you have continued to use your art to bring attention to the problems of waste disposal. You remain concerned with litter in urban areas, but you have increasingly focused on what you see as the source of the problem: high rates of consumption with no thought of consequences. With all this trash and no good way to get rid of it, it’s no wonder there is trash everywhere.

Now you use your art, made primarily from plastic waste, to advocate reduction in plastics production and consumption. Your sculptures are a visible, tangible testament to the problem of plastic waste, confronting people with the reality that the things they throw away do not simply vanish. You exhibit your work with other artist-activists concerned about waste, and you partner with nonprofit organizations to couple your exhibits with lectures and programs that teach people about the problem of waste. You also do your own research and remain well informed on the issues.

You are excited and honored to be included in this hearing. You have always believed that art can make a difference, but people do not always take activists, particularly artist-activists, seriously. You are eager to use this opportunity to prove those doubters wrong.  You have done a lot of reading and research, and you are well prepared to present your arguments with lots of evidence. You want the new regulation to severely limit the production of one-use, disposable plastics because you know that eliminating those plastics is the only way to clean up our planet.

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

  • The Fatal Shore, Awash in Plastic,” by Mark McDonald, New York Times, August 23, 2012

  • 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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