PLAinly Put, Gary Smith, UG '26, Grace Anne McCooey, UG '26, and Eli Soffer, UG '26 (3993890)
The US produces well over 35 million tons of plastic each year, largely in part due to the great demand for single-use plastics. Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a popular alternative to fossil-fuel-based plastics, but many people who use it are not aware of where it comes from or how to properly dispose of it. This study seeks to explain the science behind PLA, how it fits into the big picture of plastic production and consumption in the United States, and what that means for people living on campus. Ultimately, we suggest that Princeton’s recycling rate can and should be improved with better recycling practices. Since PLA is not commercially recyclable as a #7 plastic (even though it has the potential to be), the best we can currently do on campus is to reduce our use of plastic consumables or save what PLA we do use for compost at the dining halls.