Kathleen Skoczen, Southern Connecticut State University;
Plastic is at once a substance and a metaphor for our epoch, the Anthropocene. A mere 100 years old, plastic is a marvel of modern technology and has become an endlessly useful 'thing' that can be morphed into an infinite number of uses and shapes. At the same time, it is non-organic and promises to outlast all of us by many, many generations. The usefulness of plastic is undeniable, and many across the globe have embraced this magical product in its myriad forms and functions. What is not always obvious is the environmental mess that plastic leaves behind. This indestructible chemical amalgam is insidiously worming its way into ecosystems, poisoning plants and animals, and putting life at risk up and down the food chain. Environmental systems across the globe are being impacted, and the fear is that reversing this course is nearly inconceivable in a world reliant on plastic, particularly as the industrial process is relatively simple and exceedingly profitable. In the Global South in particular there is no infrastructure to make plastic disappear. Communities have had to integrate plastic into their material and social worlds without the benefit of solid waste management systems: Exporting plastics and the production of plastic did not come with a 3-R campaign and 'trash' was transformed into something that did not dissolve back into the natural world. This panel explores the environmental costs, cultural responses to the plastic induced environmental crises, and local reactions and solutions.