Our team is exploring optimized communication methods for raising awareness of the potential health effects and environmental impacts of certain plastics.
Appropriating the existing Resin Identification Code (RIC) we hope to develop a graphic standard which readily indicates to consumers of the details pertaining to plastic items. These can include material properties, recyclability, toxins, and biodegradability index specific to each product. The current RIC is not entirely understood by consumers and consequently doesn’t warrant the important material information and its effects.
We have been drawing examples from the cigarette industry and its implementation of warning signs on products to properly inform consumers and deter them from purchasing tobacco products.
During our research we found that health-warning labels on cigarette packs appeared 50 years ago due to The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965. In 2011, the FDA published the final rules to accompany color images that depict negative health consequences of smoking.
There have been extensive studies regarding the effectiveness of pictorial warning labels. The conclusion is that bold visual images tended to be more impactful in terms of affecting consumer behaviour than having just text. Due to communication inequalities, the ability to understand and process health information differed within disadvantaged communities. As such, images helped get the message across to all demographics, including non-literate individuals. Positive effects of any social policy endeavors should equally benefit and apply to all racial and class groups. Consequently, the images will only have a similar effect if consumers accept plastic usage to be harmful to personal health or consider environmental protection to be as vital as human well-being.
For most packaged foods, we only see the nutritional values of the contents inside the packaging as implemented by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990. Perhaps, depending on the real estate of the products, we also need to include a type of material compositions label, similar to nutritional value labels.
Partnering with local municipalities we can also customize recyclability index icons according to local communities.
In conclusion, we are looking to develop 3 stages of graphic standards. Index Logos which indicates type of plastic and can be applied to the smallest plastic item in circulation. Visuals that accompanies text warnings that demonstrate personal health and environmental impacts, similar to cigarette packaging. And Material Composition Labels of all outer packaging containers, if size of label permits.