The Problem: Sustainability

Sustainability is a big issue in our world. I live in Hawaii and I see firsthand the consequences of plastic waste. On our beaches there are bits and pieces of plastic remnants from anything to fishing traps to containers and plastic bags. If we eliminated the use of plastic, starting with straws and utensils, we could be making a big difference in the world. Our beaches would be beautiful and not littered with plastic, animals wouldn’t be choking and dying on plastic bags, and we wouldn’t be ingesting fish that have eaten toxic microplastics.

The Importance:

This problem is important to me because I see it first hand, living on an island. I see all the plastic waste on beaches which is really saddening. We don’t want to kill our sea life, and we want our beaches to be beautiful and clean. Eliminating plastic waste would be huge for sea life and it would help eliminate pollution.



A: make plastic utensils

B: make biodegradable utensils


A: buy

B: don’t buy

Nash Equilibrium is (A,B). This is because if companies play A, consumers want B, and if consumers play B, companies are indifferent between A and B, therefore we can pick (0,80).

Using oddments, you find the companies game and the consumers game. You find that the companies mixed strategy is playing A 15/29, and B 19/29 of the time. Then you find that the consumers mixed strategy is playing A, 0% of the time and playing B 180/180 of the time, or 100% of the time.

What all that ^^ means:

I discovered that the solution to our plastic waste problem is for companies to produce plastic utensils and consumers not to buy them. I did this by figuring out what the outcomes are if a company does this and consumers do that. When companies make plastic utensils and consumers buy them, the companies profit and the consumers get their utensils, but the environment suffers because that plastic will somehow find its way into the ecosystem. If companies make plastic utensils but consumers don’t buy them, the environment isn’t going to suffer and the companies don’t profit. If companies make biodegradable utensils and consumers buy them, the companies still profit, but not as much, while the environment doesn’t suffer and the consumers get their utensils. If companies make biodegradable utensils and consumers don’t buy them, then the companies don’t profit and the consumers don’t get their utensils. I was able to figure out that the best solution for everyone would be for consumers to make plastic utensils and have consumers not buy them.

If consumers don’t buy plastic utensils the environment doesn’t suffer, because this plastic waste won’t make its way into our ecosystem. This means we are a tiny step closer to becoming sustainable.

Game Tree

Using backwards induction, you can use this game tree to figure out the best outcome for both players. Starting with consumers, you see that on the left A branch of companies, consumers would prefer to play B, because they get the highest payoff of 80. That eliminates the consumer A branch so the companies A branch simplifies to (0,80). Then on the companies B branch consumers would prefer to play A, because they receive the higher payoff of 100. That leaves the companies branch B to simplify to just (80,100). From there, companies would prefer the payoff of 80 to 0, so they would play branch B. This shows the best outcome using backwards induction is (B,A)–companies produce compostable utensils and consumers buy them.

Pareto Optimal Polygon

Above is a graph of the pareto optimal polygon for this situation with the plotted points taken from the table. The pareto optimal mixed solution would be anything on the right most line of this polygon. In the situation I’ve created, you can’t really do a mixed solution; it’s not too ideal to make plastic utensils 30% of the time and compostable utensils 70% of the time, companies either make one or the other. In this situation, the best outcome is (B,A), companies make compostable utensils and consumers buy them, since it is the right top most point of the polygon.

This link is a YouTube video about edible cutlery. Although my project focus’ on compostable cutlery, edible cutlery is also a great alternative to plastic. This is just something to think about, and consider if maybe you would be interested in pursing this route of sustainability.

I have included a link to a survey I made below. This survey is about compostable v.s. plastic utensils, and I plan on sending the survey to companies that produce plastic utensils, assuming you have all taken into account my findings.

I have also included links to websites that sell compostable cutlery to promote the use of compostable cutlery.

Every year, there is about 8 million metric tons of plastic that is dumped into our oceans. There are also gigantic garbage patches of floating plastic in our oceans, the one most commonly known is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is the size of Texas. By 2020, the amount of plastic in our oceans is anticipated to increase tenfold. Just because that is what is expected, doesn’t mean that it has to happen. Yes, it is hard to make huge changes before 2020, but there are little changes that can be made. One plastic item that is easy to eliminate use of, is plastic cutlery. At my school, kids use plastic cutlery daily, and it is something I am guilty of as well. These one use items just get thrown in the trash, and some of it ends up in our oceans. There is an easy solution for this. Compostable cutlery. There have been creations of edible cutlery and 100% compostable cutlery, all which are environmentally friendly, and easy enough to obtain. Do your part in reducing plastic waste in the ocean, and make the switch.

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  1. April 29, 2019 by 20LaurenB

    Hi Izzy! I really liked your presentation! Initially, I was afraid to continue reading because of the game theory technicality, but after you explained what everything meant, it cleared up any confusion. It was super cool that you added the Pareto Optimal Polygon because it helped give me a visual representation of what we were talking about. I’m really passionate about the plastic problem in our oceans because it’s not addressed enough nor enough action is taken! It was interesting to see how supply vs. demand for plastic utensils change and how companies would adjust to the consumer’s needs. Thank you for sharing!

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