The Plastics Blog
By Don Loepp | About The Plastics Blog

Obama's unnecessary slam against plastics

By Don Loepp | June 25, 2013 05:32 pm ET

President Obama cited the plastics industry in his big speech on climate change today, but the reference may leave a sour taste in the mouths of some Plastics Blog readers.

Here's the relevant excerpt:

"See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can't or they won't do it. They'll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that's not true. Look at our history.

"When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn't end the plastics industry or the oil industry. American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out CFCs -- the gases that were depleting the ozone layer -- it didn't kill off refrigerators or air-conditioners or deodorant. American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much.

"The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn't cripple automakers. The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years -- with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from.

"So the point is, if you look at our history, don't bet against American industry. Don't bet against American workers. Don't tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy."

Fair point?

First, let's provide the context. Obama was speaking today at Georgetown University in what the White House billed as a major speech on climate change.

There are plenty of plastics company leaders who have been pushing for action on climate change for a long time -- well over a decade. So it's not like this is an environmentalists vs. plastics issue. (If you don't believe me, check out this 2006 story on Robert Schad, "Environmental causes reignite retired Schad.")

On top of that, what exactly is Obama talking about when he mentions that "we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics"? It's not clear, but apparently it's the Food and Drug Administration's 2012 decision to exclude baby bottles and sippy cups from regulations that permit companies to use bisphenol A in food-contact applications. ("FDA agrees to revise rules on BPA in baby bottles.")

Remember, though, that by that point, all major baby-bottle makers in the U.S. had stopped making bottles from polycarbonate -- three years earlier.

So it seems a bit odd to be taking credit for restricting BPA -- a chemical that's still in plenty of food packaging and other products.

Obama's plastics reference today seems a little out of left field, and any mention of "plastics" and "cancer-causing chemicals" is likely to reinforce a negative image that many consumers have about plastics packaging and food service products.

It was an unhelpful, and unnecessary, slam against plastics.


Recent Blog Posts

Calling Sherlock Holmes   April 10, 2014 10:43 am ET
This year's best April Fools' jokes in plastics   April 1, 2014 4:43 pm ET
Pharrell Williams and Adidas make new clothing from marine debris   March 28, 2014 10:07 am ET
Luxottica deal may give Google Glass more style   March 25, 2014 10:09 am ET
Numerous plastics angles in the 2014 Manufacturing Leadership Awards   March 21, 2014 10:50 am ET
Another benefit of reshoring: GE working on a 'new model for manufacturing'   March 20, 2014 4:36 pm ET

Comments

Obama's unnecessary slam against plastics

By Don Loepp

Published: June 25, 2013 5:32 pm ET
Updated: June 25, 2013 5:56 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Automotive Market Review and Outlook 2014 The Americas

This 75-page report features in-depth analysis of the automotive industry for the Americas. It includes discussions of market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting production and threats as well as design strategies being implemented by the major automakers. Detailed charts and data tables outline North American automotive production over the last five years.

Learn more

Plastics Building & Construction Market Review and Outlook 2014 with MS Excel chart data

This report provides in-depth analysis of the plastic building and construction market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats and the latest developments in construction trends that impact plastics processors.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events