Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics


Dow Historical Collection, Science History Institute Archives

You have been invited to participate in a hearing regarding a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regulation to reduce plastic waste in the United States. During the hearing, experts on all sides will argue for their position on plastics and will propose changes to the Regulation. The EPA Regulators will choose the regulation that best addresses the issue of plastic waste.




Plastic is a particularly controversial contributor to the country’s solid-waste problem because of its persistence in the environment. But plastics are also vital to scientific and economic development and essential to life as we know it. The goal of this Regulation is thus to effectively reduce plastic waste in a practical, manageable way.



Get the Facts

Prepare for the debate by reading the background materials listed below. They will help you understand the science of plastics and the history of the conflict over plastics’ production, use, and disposal. Begin with the Introduction.

Make Your Case

Select your group from the menu above to access resources specific to your group and to learn about the other members of your group.

Teacher Resources

Download a PDF of the instructor’s manual for Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics.