Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2014


John Van Buren


The use of plastic is prevalent in our society due to the increasing amount of new products entering the market that need some form of packaging that is solid enough yet disposable. From everything to yogurt containers to diapers, plastic containers are a large part of our society’s consumption culture and often goes unnoticed. However, people point to plastic water bottles and containers as the only culprit, and often times forget that almost all packaging contains some form of plastic. For my thesis I want to examine how the use of plastics has increased waste material, considering that it takes up about 13 percent of the solid waste material that is collected. I want to research how the plastic waste is not only affecting wildlife, as seen with many marine animals who ingest the plastic, but also how there should be changes to plastic recycling. A large misconception of the use of plastic is that all of it can be recycled. The reality of it is, is that not all plastics can be recycled because they are each made of different materials and some cannot be combined. The small number beneath every plastic container identifies which type of plastic it is, and many of them may not combine. A large bulk of this paper focuses on the importance of bioplastics, and how facilitating the growth of using biomass and polymers from natural resources for plastic is a new method for developing new plastics. I will use information from the EPA, and also from different plastic municipalities, to look into how plastics are recycled, and what is being done for their reuse. The three disciplines I plan to use for my research will be environmental history, environmental economics, and environmental chemistry and public health to explain how the making of plastics and burning can have harmful effects. Aside from this research, I will also look into how the media plays a large role in environmental policy because of the idea that now more plastics are being recycled and so the issue is being taken care of, and if possible what new technologies can be used to create more sustainable plastics.