Special thanks: Jiayi Liu, Brad MacDonald, Xunyu Pu, and my mom.


Hi, there! My name is Qinglin Wang, a graduating BFA student at Design and Technology at Parsons School of Design. Welcome to My Plastic Planet, my thesis project website.


Q: How do you define "a piece of plastic"?
A: When an object is mainly made from one type of plastic and different parts of the object are tightly attached, it is considered as a piece of plastic.

For example, a typical single-use water bottle is made of the bottle, bottle cap, and bottle sleeve. Three parts of the bottle are made from three different types of plastic. It will be counted as one unit because the main polymer used in the bottle is #1 PET plastic.

NYC's municipal recycling program asks residents to leave to cap on the bottle, so it will not be detached for separate recycling (there is no other way to recycle bottle cap and bottle sleeve separately).

Q: Does your data include all plastic you used within these 16 weeks?
A: No. Only the plastic items that are acquired within 6 months before used up are counted. Small paper products lined with a thin layer of plastic are also not counted. That includes over 200 alcohol pads and paper pasta boxes that have plastic film windows.

Q: How do you evaluate the recyclability of a piece of plastic?
A: I evaluate each item based on The APR Design Guide for Plastic Recyclability and the information I learned from my trip to SIMS Municipal Recycling, MFR (Material Recovery Facility) who handles the sorting process of all recyclables from NYC residents.

For example, according to The APR Design Guide for Plastic Recyclability, if the bottle sleeve covers more than 75% of the bottle body, the bottle is not likely to pass the sorting system at MRFs in the U.S. As a result, a beverage bottle that has a full body shrink sleeve is not likely to be sorted into the right category can get recycled successfully. Therefore, it will be categorized as "medium", or "somewhat recyclable" that requires consumers to get rid of the shrink sleeve before recycling.

Other factors that will significantly affect the sorting process includes dimensions and color etc. For example, when a plastic item is too flat, it will be sorted as paper and contaminate the paper waste stream. When an item is smaller than 2.5 inches in all dimensions, it's not likely to be picked up by the sorting machine.

Q: What did you do to lower you plastic consumption?
A: Before the COVID-19 situation, I brought reusable cup and cutleries with me pretty much every day. I also bring reusable shopping bag and produce bags whenever I go grocery shopping. For other products like dental floss, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, and single-use plastic razor, I switched to plastic-free counterparts which are silk dental floss with glass container, bar soaps, and metal razor. Additionally, every time I wanted to buy snacks and frozen food, I made negotiation with myself so I would buy less stuff packed in single-use plastic. (I also want to thank my roommates for occasionally feeding me snacks during these 16 weeks.)

Q: How do you cope with the COVID-19 situation?
A: I stocked up on a bunch of pasta, pasta sauce, canned food, and other paper or metal packaging products. I do have to buy frozen food to reduce the frequency for grocery shopping.

Q: Why do you try to minimize your plastic consumption if you recycle?
We should try to avoid plastic as much as we can. Most plastics end up in landfill after they are recycled once.


If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me via email:

Special thanks: Jiayi Liu, Brad MacDonald, Xunyu Pu, and my mom.

- 2020 Qinglin Wang -