Our core beliefs: Safety, free trade and sustainability

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We’ve published our editorial agenda in the first issue of Plastics News every year since 2001. Remember January 2001? The U.S. economy was strong but showing signs of weakening, polyethylene resin cost about 50 cents per pound, and we’d just covered the huge NPE 2000 in Chicago.

Some things change. But many more stay the same.

I enjoy the opportunity to fine-tune the column, because I think it’s important. It’s the foundation for our weekly opinion columns, and it offers a blueprint for a prosperous and sustainable plastics industry.

I’ve repeated many of the same points each year. There are two reasons for that: First, it’s because I feel strongly about them — these are my core beliefs about business. Second, it’s because the plastics industry tends to face the same issues every year.

We’ve been publishing since 1989, and processors’ top concerns never change: finding skilled workers and stable resin pricing. I hope readers will have success on at least one of those fronts in 2017.

With the start of a new year, Plastics News updates and restates its editorial agenda:

• Safety must be every company’s top priority. That includes keeping workers safe and making products that 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.

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.

• Fairness and honesty should be key parts of business relationships. Would your mother be proud of the way you do business? If not, you’d better re-evaluate your efforts.

• 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.

• Recycling must be encouraged. 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 landfilled — 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.

• Companies and their leaders should take an active role in their communities and in trade groups. Local officials need to be aware of the plastics industry’s size and importance, so they know that plastics are a significant employer and contributor to the local, national and global economies.

• 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.

• 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. That means paying a fair wage and offering attractive benefits. Having a well trained and flexible workforce is a competitive advantage, so employers should support education and training. Employers also should embrace diversity in their workforces, including opportunities for women.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.