Collaboration may be best strategy to prevent anti-bag bills

Published: July 9, 2013 1:25 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2013 4:02 pm ET

Image By: File photo, Plastics News Phil Rozenski, director of sustainability and marketing for Hilex Poly Co. LLC

Related to this story

Topics Packaging, Sustainability, Public Policy, Film & Sheet, Extrusion
Companies & Associations Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

NASHVILLE, TENN. — When it comes to countering plastic bag bans and taxes, the best solution could be collaboration.

Thanks to work by industry groups, no legislature has succeeded in passing a statewide bag ban, said Phil Rozenski, director of sustainability and marketing for Hilex Poly Co. LLC in Hartsville, S.C., and a member of the American Progressive Bag Alliance.

Rozenski was one of three speakers talking sustainability in a panel at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Flexible Film and Bag Conference, held May 8-10 in Nashville.

The industry has had to work hard to counter myths and misperceptions about plastics, he said.

He relayed an experience from a bag-ban press conference. The event organizer, an active environmental group, fabricated information about plastics, according to Rozenski, like claiming that it takes more energy to manufacture a plastic bag than a paper one, and displayed large posters with pictures of littered streams. The streams were littered with tires, cans and other debris, but not plastic bags, he said.

"If they can't win, they're going to change the facts. That's been the biggest challenge we face," Rozenski said.

Industry opponents would rather appeal to emotion than facts, he said. "We're taking a different approach. We're getting out there and talking about the facts."

Some of those facts: Plastic bags are 100 recyclable; they're made from natural gas, not oil; they make up less than 1 percent of litter; and they have a smaller environmental footprint than alternatives.

Bags are also not single-use — about 60-75 percent of bags are reused, he said. And when bags are recycled, they're made into lots of products like new plastic bags made by Hilex, or the boardwalks being built with Trex Co. Inc.'s wood-alternative to replace ones destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, said Rozenski.

Increasing the recovery of PE film is important to boosting sustainability and customer acceptance; the future of PE film packaging depends on increased recycling, said Dave Heglas, material resources director for Trex Co., in his presentation on the American Chemistry Council's Film Recycling Group,

"In order for recycling to be truly sustainable, we need more end users" like Hilex and Winchester, Va.-based Trex, he said, in response to an audience question.

He added that the industry needs to continue educating people on what plastics to recycle and how to collect them.

The entire industry should feel responsible for correcting myths and helping people understand sustainability, Rozenski agreed.

Rozenski encouraged manufacturers to show pictures of employees on their website, instead of just machinery or products, to give the industry a face.

It's easy to ban machines and bags, he said, but the plastic bag industry employs more than 30,000 people directly, and the public needs to understand that.

It's not just bags, he said. "It's people. It's a community. There's a lot of impact."

Bag bans impact the entire industry, from resin suppliers to equipment manufac¬turers, he said. "This is not a plastic bag issue, it's a plastics issue."

He added that if environmental groups aren't able to pass bag bans, they will be likely to move on to another segment of plastics.

Rozenski encouraged audience members to make sure they have a voice in the debate, by joining trade organizations and having a strategy for engagement.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance has been successful in communicating with the media, he said. Three years ago, news stories about bag bans were one-sided and full of misinformation, according to Rozenski, so the American Progressive Bag Alliance offered to be a resource. Now stories are more balanced and cover both sides of the debate, he said. The organization is making sure that the media know the facts, he said.

"Activists will say things, but they won't be held accountable," he said.

"You've got to get out there and stop people from hijacking science."

The organization also has a website, bagtheban.com, and interacts with the public on Facebook and Twitter. The group is focused on countering myths and "junk science" while promoting recycling as the best solution to litter, Rozenski said.

"People at a grass-roots level are picking up this message," he said. "Especially that we are active in their communities as employers, that it benefits them."

If a bag ban or tax is proposed in the area, companies should ask their employees to write a letter or become involved in the debate. Even small bans deserve the industry's attention, he said.

"If you leave a vacuum or a hole in the facts, they will write in whatever they want. If the bill's there and you don't get engaged, they get to write the story they want," Rozenski said.

When legislators hear the facts about plastic bags, it makes a difference, he said.

APBA and other organizations have been successful in opposing bans and taxes, according to Rozenski, despite perceptions to the contrary. Most of the cities that are banning bags are centered near Los Angeles or San Francisco, he said.

He noted recent successes in Oregon, California, Virginia, Maryland and Washington state.


Comments

Collaboration may be best strategy to prevent anti-bag bills

Published: July 9, 2013 1:25 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2013 4:02 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Producers urge booming Brazilian housing market to use EPS

April 18, 2014 1:08 pm ET

Leaders in Brazil's plastics industry are asking lawmakers to mandate the use of expandable polystyrene (the raw material for expanded EPS) in new...    More

JM Eagle reopens shuttered Colorado plant with 8 PVC lines

April 18, 2014 1:02 pm ET

JM Eagle has reopened its Pueblo, Colo., plant with eight PVC pipe extrusion lines back in operation following an 18-month shutdown.    More

Dutch company launching $100 million PP, PE recycling plant

April 18, 2014 10:42 am ET

Quality Circular Polymers is building a new plastics recycling operation in Geleen, the Netherlands' Chemelot industrial chemical site, with a...    More

Spain's Cristian Lay Group buys two materials units of bankrupt LSB

April 17, 2014 11:11 am ET

Spanish industrial conglomerate Cristian Lay Group has purchased two of the bankrupt Spanish PET packaging group La Seda de Barcelona.    More

Texas consumer group urges more science in advocacy campaigns

April 17, 2014 1:35 pm ET

WASHINGTON—The Texas Consumer Association (TCA) is raising concerns about consumer advocacy campaigns against certain chemicals and plastic prod...    More

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