BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA-More than half the respondents to an Australian survey seeking consumer attitudes about plastics think plastics' disadvantages outweigh its advantages. When asked their level of concern about environmental problems associated with plastics, 24 percent said they are ``very worried'' and another 39 percent are ``quite worried.'' Only 6 percent are not worried at all.
Warwick Bisley, managing director of Melbourne-based resin producer Kemcor Australia Pty. Ltd., and president of the Plastics & Chemicals Industries' Association, outlined the findings in a presentation to the first PACIA conference, at Coolum, Australia, on June 5.
Bisley said the survey results showed attitudes about plastics are less positive than in a similar survey taken two years ago. Women were harsher in their judgments than in the previous survey, he noted.
Bisley said although plastics constitutes less than 2 percent of landfill, 71 percent of respondents see plastics as the primary household waste concern.
``While the public perception of plastics is at odds with the facts, we must get on with more recycling, in parallel with working to change perceptions,'' Bisley said.
A major challenge is to foster consumer demand for products made from recycled plastic, he said.
Bisley warned that consumer attitudes are being reflected in the government sector, although the plastics and chemicals sector contributed A$24 billion (US$17.4 billion) a year in revenue, and produced import replacements worth A$10 billion $US$7.3 billion) a year.
Barry Carbon, executive director of Australia's Environment Protection Agency, told the conference the federal government soon will see legislation to introduce a National Pollutant Inventory, which will require plastic and chemical firms to provide full information to the public on all emissions from factories.
Lisa Corbyn, New South Wales EPA executive director, told the conference the plastics industry has to recognize community attitudes about the environment. People want more information about the effects of plastics and plastic processing on the environment, but industry is viewed as the least credible supplier of information, she said.
Bob North, commercial director of Kemcor, said plastics recycling is ``a great loss leader.'' Kemcor and Melbourne-based Brickwood Holdings Ltd. are partners in Melbourne recycler Full Cycle Plastics Pty. Ltd., which loses A$1 million (US$726,600) a year. It recycles high density polyethylene milk bottles.
Melbourne-based Huntsman Chemical Co. Aust. Ltd., an original partner, pulled out last year because of the losses. North said many small PACIA plastic sector members ``don't want to know about recycling.''
He said there has been pressure from some recyclers for mandatory recycled content in plastic products, and the federal government now may need to consider it because the end-use market has not developed in Australia.
Plastics industry executives at the conference said recycling is not cost effective because of high collection costs, the low cost of plastic products with recycled content, and the lackof mandatory recycled-content laws.