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PN industry wish list for the coming year

By: Don Loepp

January 7, 2013

With the start of a new year, Plastics News restates its editorial agenda. The plastics industry continues to make important progress in many of these areas, which is particularly noteworthy considering the difficult economy we all faced during the Great Recession, and we applaud all of the effort that has made that possible.

* Safety must be every company’s top priority. That includes keeping workers safe and making products consumers can use with confidence. Processors, suppliers, workers and regulators must work together to make the plastics industry a leader in worker and community safety.

That said, we are disturbed by the growing legislative acceptance of the so-called precautionary principle, which assumes a better-safe-than-sorry approach on safety issues. Plastics companies have a responsibility to consumers to ensure that their products are safe. Likewise, consumers, regulators and legislators have a responsibility to deal with plastics-related issues without bias.

* Bans and taxes that encourage replacing plastic products with less-sustainable alternative materials must be discouraged.

* For too long, plastics have suffered from an image problem. The industry must combat misinformation by highlighting the benefits of plastics.

* Sustainability is a priority. Profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive concepts — true sustainability will result in long-term health for the plastics industry. Companies should consider sustainability when making decisions about resource utilization, including material selection and energy use. The industry should consume resources with the attitude that they will become more scarce in the future.

* Plastics processors need accurate, timely information to help them make informed decisions. They need data on the industry’s size and importance, so they can make their communities aware of its significance as an employer and a contributor to the economy.

* The industry should speak with a unified voice. This requires cooperation at all levels of the leading trade associations, as well as international and regional groups, and with business, consumer and environmental organizations. Processors and suppliers should take an active role in their communities and in trade groups.

* The free market is the best mechanism for raising the standard of living, encouraging democracy and rewarding hard work. Free trade encourages efficiency and inspires stability around the world. Government tax policies should motivate entrepreneurs and investors, help industry compete globally and strive for fairness.

* All sectors of the plastics industry must recruit and retain talented workers. Groups should strive for diversity in management.

* Recycling efforts must be promoted. Americans have become too comfortable in their habit of throwing away used plastics items. Products should be designed to take into account recycling, source reduction, health and pollution issues. Where practical, single-use plastics should be recycled, incinerated for energy or at the very least put in a landfill — not become litter or marine debris.

* The industry should support state and national bottle bills, since bottle-deposit programs have proved effective in collecting a clean, valuable recycling stream.