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The Plastics Labeling and Advertising Act of 2017

Optimized communication methods for raising awareness of potential health effects and environmental impacts of certain plastics.

Photo of archipleasure
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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. 

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

The warning labels and graphic standard can be applied to a wide range of plastic products, thus raising awareness of plastic waste in any social backgrounds. Our focus is on behavioural and psychological impacts at the cultural level and requires a rethinking of how people understand use of plastic products. We hope to generate a system of communication equality which benefits all racial and class groups.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

We hope to look at universal strategies that can be applied across demographics. Furthermore, the economic advantages of plastic packaging for industries are unquestionable. Significant strides in alternative materials have already been made, but as creatives, we believe the non-technical side of policy/behaviour-related strategies warrants an equal amount of investigation and representation.

Tell us about yourself

We are an initiative for multi-disciplinary collaboration, creative exploration, and pleasurable ideas. Our team has a background in architecture and investigates cross-disciplinary ideas under the pseudonym, Archipleasure.


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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi archipleasure!

It is great to see you in the challenge. I hope you also repost in the ideas phase, which opens in one week's time. It would be great to see how the labelling would be used for one of these use cases -

I noticed that you are based in New York. We have an OpenIDEO New York Chapter which you might want to connect to -

Photo of archipleasure

Hi Kate,

Thank you for the reminder. To be honest, we are new to the platform and don't fully understand how the process is developed and how ideas get selected. But we will make sure to post a more fleshed out version in the next phase.

As for the Use Cases, plastic waste seems to affect communities differently. One of the cases mentions how discarded sachets can block waterways. Whereas in recent news, there are terrible instances of trash landslides. In some countries it affects the fishing economy or water potability. Then, there is the global overarching effect of oceanic pollution. We believe the warning signs should first be tailored to campaign local issues revolving around plastics. Similar to how Delhi banned plastics in reaction to illegal burning sites of trash, different countries have varying problems with regard to plastic products. Perhaps we cannot assume that having the same global logo of "protecting our oceans" will be just as compelling to a land-locked nation without maritime borders; it may feel like an endeavor that is distant from home or something that won't affect me.

We also started following the New York Chapter as well!
Thank you in advance.

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