Perhaps plastics packagers would benefit by taking a page from the Republican political agenda and applying it to their own industry. By pruning the growth of the most popular forms of welfare and eliminating the Commerce Department, congressional Republicans have put their political futures on the line to balance the federal budget. Messrs. Robert Dole and Newt Gingrich have produced a plan that doesn't cut taxes until later - and may not ever - but offers to use federal taxes more efficiently.
They would combine three federal agencies, including the Agency for International Development, into the State Department, slow the growth of Medicare, give estate-tax relief and eliminate the marriage penalty in federal income tax.
They hope to conserve the federal dollars flowing out to a largely middle class group of recipients. If America's economic situation doesn't worsen significantly for this middle class group before November 1996, Dole and Gingrich may even hold their leadership positions and actually witness a balanced federal bud-get early in the next century.
The idea of conservation of resources to overcome a deficit is not such a bad idea for the plastics packaging industry, either. The current system of producing an ever-increasing number of one-way bottles and bags has created something akin to a welfare class of manufacturing, in which companies grow to depend on achieving the loyalty of one more consumer to market their products successfully. That consumer's throw-away behavior keeps the resin sales up and everyone happy.
Whatever efforts manufacturers use to mitigate the perception of using ever-increasing amounts of resin - such as campaigning for FDA approval of post-consumer resin in food packages, or leading public relations campaigns to collect and recycle disposable items - don't address the welfare dependency problems.
They still make something more easily tossed than reused - they depend on the largess of one more consumer to keep their stretch blow molding units humming.
Sure, there always will be that one more consumer who in turn will throw away one more plastic bottle, just like there probably always will be that extra federal welfare dollar. We'd all be even happier if we knew that additional federal dollar was being used wisely.
Many in the plastics industry applaud the courage of the Republicans for cutting government spending for and to those Americans who don't really need it. By using the same logic, the plastics industry can get that same federal government off its back and reduce the deficit of its image at the same time. Conserve plastic. Make it returnable.
Here's another analogy. The 1950s and '60s American automobile industry effectively urged car owners to throw away their vehicles when their ashtrays became full. Now, a conservation-minded automobile industry makes it possible to buy a modestly priced but technically sophisticated Ford Taurus that doesn't need a tuneup for 100,000 miles.
It may have given Newt and Bob the idea.