Embracing an interdisciplinary approach to plastics pollution awareness and action

Ambio. 2019 Aug;48(8):855-866. doi: 10.1007/s13280-018-1126-8. Epub 2018 Nov 17.


This paper considers how an interdisciplinary approach to the "wicked problem" of plastics pollution offers unique and important collaborative possibilities. Specially, the paper considers the approach of the Synthetic Collective, a group comprising artists, humanities scholars, and scientists. Considering first how artists and scientists might respond differently to tracking, mapping, understanding, and representing plastics pollution, we then look for potential points of commonality across disciplinary difference. In respect to the urgent and multifaceted problem of marine plastics pollution in the Great Lakes region, we ask what are some of the successes and pitfalls of bringing together diverse approaches and interests? The paper concludes with a clear strategy: a set of instructions geared towards building successful interdisciplinary collaborations. Ultimately, we conclude that a strong relationship amongst scientists and artists is possible, fruitful, and indeed warranted when shared goals are the driving principle of the group.

Keywords: Arts; Humanities; Interdisciplinary; Plastics pollution; Sciences; Wicked problem.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollution
  • Great Lakes Region
  • Humanities
  • Interdisciplinary Studies*
  • Plastics*


  • Plastics