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The Plastic Pipeline


Ocean plastics are a huge problem. Eleven million tons of plastic waste entered the ocean in 2016 alone and without immediate action, this number will triple by 2040. While we as consumers can do our part by tossing single-use plastics in the recycling bin, only 15 percent of plastic waste worldwide is recycled and much of the plastic life cycle occurs beyond their scope of control. Consumers need to understand not only what happens that shapes plastic products from cradle to grave, but also key policy options and their impact on stemming plastic pollution.

The Wilson Center's China Environment Forum and Serious Games Initiative are currently developing an educational digital game, The Plastic Pipeline, which will raise public awareness on the plastic product lifecycle and policies that can be enacted to help stem the tide of pollution going into our oceans. Partially funded by the National Geographic Society, this project will address the mounting issue of plastics and target diverse audiences around the globe and extend to related projects on waste management, disposal, and recycling around the globe. The Plastic Pipeline will tell the story of what happens to a plastic product before and after it enters the consumer’s hands. 


Built of Leading Research

The game builds off research from the Wilson Center, led by the China Environment Forum, exploring the leakage of plastic waste along the whole life cycle and examining impact of policies that are being implemented around the world to “plug” these leaks. Besides informing content in the game, our research is creating further resources in the forms of articles, briefs and webinars to help shed light on this issue.

Using the Power of Play

Games can make difficult concepts accessible and motivate a shift in perception. Our past games and game prototypes have tackled a range of concepts, from the federal budget to coastal resilience to disinformation. Games can have a wide impact, reaching as with our Fiscal Ship game near millions worldwide. They can also build a sense of empowerment and motivate people to learn—and do—more.

Setting Sail on The Fiscal Ship

Past Games: The Fiscal Ship

Past games have included games like Budget Hero and, now, the Fiscal Ship which focus on civic education through play. Developed by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Serious Games Initiative and the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, this nonpartisan game allows players to learn more about the impact of specific policies and see their long-term impact on our national debt. The name of the game is fiscal sustainability -- can you captain the Fiscal Ship out of national debt?

Play the Fiscal Ship

Past Research

Our research has covered all parts of the plastic pollution problem: from the production of plastic products to waste treatment. It has focused on the global impact of this issue, with regional emphasis on the United States and Southeast Asia, particularly China. We are transforming this information into the game as part of our outreach efforts.