Don't sell plastics victories short

William Carteaux

Published: July 13, 2012 6:00 am ET

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Topics End Markets, Processes, Sustainability, Recycling

I read the ending of your recent blog post “Who won the battle with ‘Big Plastic’?” [“The Plastics Blog” by Don Loepp, June 28] as a jab at the job SPI and our allied organizations are doing to promote and protect our industry. You wrote, “… it’s tough to make a case that the plastics industry is winning many battles.” I wish you had the space for me to detail our many victories in this area, and how we are fighting on all fronts for our industry.

Bag the Bans

We continue to be on the front lines wherever taxes and bans are being considered by legislators to make the case that such proposals have not worked and do not protect the environment. The American

Progressive Bag Alliance (under the auspices of SPI since the start of 2012) has had a hand in defeating over two dozen plastic bag bans or taxes at the state, county and city level. And this does not include the numerous times that the APBA and its partners have reached out to localities “considering” a bag proposal with information that effectively ended the discussion in that locality. Furthermore, the APBA has supported efforts in cities, counties and states to promote recycling through either mandatory or voluntary programs. 

Recycling on the Rise

Unfortunately people do continue to litter (often breaking the law by doing so). Therefore, we will continue to fight while simultaneously educating policymakers that instead of singling out a product that is a miniscule amount of the litter, they should be encouraging recycling opportunities. Recycling addresses all sorts of bags, wraps and films to be recycled instead of winding up in a landfill or in the street. In 2010, more than 900 million pounds of bags and wraps were recycled, an increase of 14 percent from 2009. That is progress on the litter front — though we should be recycling even more.

Last month, thanks in no small part to grant funding provided by SPI, Montgomery County (Md.) Executive Ike Leggett announced that beginning immediately residents of single-family homes receiving county recycling pickups can now add PET thermoform plastics to their recycling bins. Similar model PET thermoform recycling operations are beginning at recyclers serving communities in Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania. SPI and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) partnered on the grants that made these programs possible: SPI providing $100,000 in program funding and NAPCOR providing project management and technical assistance. Big wins!

We also “walked the walk” at NPE2012 not only by promoting advancements in the areas of energy efficiency, biopolymers, new technology and sustainability in both exhibits and the conference educational tracks, but by more than doubling the amount of material collected in the NPE2012 Recycling Program than was collected at NPE2009. Final figures indicate that the production scrap generated by machinery operated on the show floor by exhibitors participating in the “NPE Recycles” program amounted to 260,208 pounds compared to the 125,040 pounds total in 2009. Furthermore, NPE week generated 908,620 pounds of post-consumer solid waste — all of this was recycled except for 157,700 pounds of food waste.

Operation Clean Sweep

SPI is one of more than 55 plastics associations worldwide that have signed on to the Global Plastics Marine Debris Declaration. Operation Clean Sweep, the pellet-containment program we founded in the early 1980s, is cited in the “solutions” section of the declaration and we are actively growing the program globally, already establishing formal agreements with Great Britain, Canada, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

Big Wins!

Yes, the U.S. plastics industry is winning many battles — and in more ways than I can touch on in this space. Shipments are up. Trade balances are leveling. New markets are emerging while offshore markets are coming back home.

And, to Plastics News readers who think this is not good enough, I say join us! We all need to work together to accelerate America’s manufacturing revival.

Through the support and active participation of our membership base, SPI will continue to advance a pro-manufacturing agenda, strengthen competitiveness, improve profitability and pursue zero-waste strategies for the U.S. plastics industry.

Carteaux is president and CEO of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.


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Don't sell plastics victories short

William Carteaux

Published: July 13, 2012 6:00 am ET

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