The Case of Plastics: Regulators
As a regulator, it’s your job to decide which group and which regulation is most persuasive. You must research carefully, ask thoughtful questions, and pay close attention throughout the game.
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. The regulation on plastic waste must do both in a manageable way. You have released a draft regulation for public comment, and now you will hear feedback from experts on all sides. You will listen to their arguments and select the regulation that is most practical and effective.
Carefully read the Original Regulation, which you have released for public comment, so you can identify the changes proposed by each group and address their concerns and suggestions. Then review the following questions, which you will ask each group during the Hearing before developing questions of your own:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Do the problems caused by our use of plastics outweigh the benefits that they provide?
Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
You are the person responsible for the EPA’s hazardous-waste and solid-waste programs, the highest-ranking official at this hearing.
Director, Resource Conservation and Recovery Division
You are the person responsible for all programs relating to hazardous waste, municipal solid waste, and sustainable materials management.
Director, Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division
You are an individual interested in the recovery of solid waste, including plastics.
Director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division
You are an individual concerned with the sustainable use of resources, emphasizing recycling, recovery, and reuse.
Director, Science Coordination and Policy Division
You are the person who oversees the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.
What Is a Regulator?
In The Case of Plastics, the Regulators are representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency responsible for developing a regulation that will address the problem of plastic waste in the United States. As a Regulator, you must ensure that the final regulation addresses the problem in a practical, manageable way.
In order to consider as many opinions as possible, the EPA has convened a hearing of plastics experts. During the hearing you will ask questions and gather information to determine what will make the best regulation. Without a clear opinion about what is best, you are ready to be persuaded by the experts.
As one of the decision makers, it is important that you gather as much information as possible throughout the game so you can make well-reasoned judgments and pick the best regulation proposal.
The Role of the Regulator
When you received your role assignment, you were also assigned an interest group. You must become an expert on this interest group. Review their goals and recommendations, read about their positions, and attend their meetings strictly as an observer. Before the Hearing you will meet with the other Regulators to share what you have learned and prepare the questions you will ask.
- Write two questions you want to ask your assigned interest group during the Hearing.
- Write a one-page analysis of your assigned group’s main arguments.
Your primary goal during the Hearing is to moderate a discussion among the interest groups and to learn as much as possible about all of the groups and their arguments. Begin with the questions in the Student Introduction, asking groups to clarify their responses as necessary. Then proceed to the questions written by you and the other Regulators. Although these questions are directed to specific interest groups, encourage the other groups to respond as well.
You will observe the groups as they prepare their proposals. Listen closely to their ideas and prepare questions for the Debate, but do not participate in their discussion.
In this final section of the game each group will present its proposal for the regulation, and you will ask questions about each proposed regulation. When the Debate concludes, you will vote on which proposal to accept for the final regulation. You will also determine which of the five interest groups made the strongest contributions to the winning regulation by ranking them in order. Points will be awarded for the winning regulation and to each interest group based on their ranking.