Rethinking Plastic Realities: A call for a well-being approach to understanding human-plastic entanglements


Plastics have emerged as the omnipresent material and challenge of the Anthropocene. Since the mid 20th century, a staggering amount of plastics have been produced, manufactured, used, disposed of and accumulated as waste in the environment. Despite their benefits, plastics are threatening the health and well-being of human and non-human life forms (Alkire 2002; Sangha et al. 2015; Sen 1993; 1999). While the plastics crisis is documented, there is little understanding of the dynamic lived experiences of coastal communities disrupted by plastic waste. Moreover, there is a need for understanding the social life of plastics and how they impact well-being across their many life stages. This study explores human-plastic entanglements, asking how colonial and toxic legacies, issues of inequity, and well-being are embedded into the social life of plastics and the ways plastics are managed and mismanaged. To address these questions we implemented a co-produced survey in a small community in Elmina, Ghana where locals are highly dependent upon their surrounding coastal environment and plastic waste entanglements are of serious concern. Beyond this initial study, the survey instrument can serve as a more holistic guide for future assessments of the role of plastics in communities and the ways in which local people can inform equitable and locally-appropriate mitigation solutions.


Creative Commons Licence


Contributed date

September 8, 2021 - 4:10am

Critical Commentary

Abstract by Jessica Vandenberg, Marlena Skrobe, Jill FallmanKarin OtsukaIvy Serwaa Gyimah Akuoko, and Suzy Ansubmitted to the 4S 2021 Panel Toxic Goodness: Harmful Legacies, Hopeful Futures


Group Audience

Cite as

Jessica Vandenberg, Marlena Skrobe, Jill Fallman, Karin Otsuka, Ivy Serwaa Gyimah Akuoko and Suzy An, "Rethinking Plastic Realities: A call for a well-being approach to understanding human-plastic entanglements ", contributed by Duygu Kasdogan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 8 September 2021, accessed 19 August 2022.