It's time for our annual Plastic Globe awards, as we look back and salute those deserving (and undeserving) parties who helped make 1996 remarkable and memorable.
ASK A NATIVE ENGLISH-SPEAKER FIRST AWARD: To Tokyo's Asahi Chemical Industries Co. Ltd., for selling a purging compound named Asaclean.
GOLD MEDAL FOR STUPIDITY AWARD: To Greenpeace Australia, for its misguided campaign to ban PVC products from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. On Oct. 23, Greenpeace activists dug out several kilometers of PVC drainage pipes and replaced them with clay and stainless steel piping. Wouldn't it be nice to have that much time on your hands?
TWILIGHT ZONE TIMING AWARD I: For the discovery that Heinz ketchup bottles were being underfilled, and the nearly simultaneous introduction of a recycling mascot in Vancouver, Wash. — Plasticula the vampire — shown clutching a Heinz-like ketchup bottle, and urging consumers to check the neck.
TWILIGHT ZONE TIMING AWARD II: To Dusseldorf, Germany, which hosted Wire '96, a trade show for the wire and cable industry, the same week that a fire forced the evacuation of the city's airport. Officials said melting wire and cable insulation created hazardous fumes.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER AWARD: To the Food and Drug Administration for reaching an accord on food packaging after the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. pushed for it for 40 years.
WOOD-FILLED RESIN AWARD: To Donald Wood, vice president for Union Carbide Corp.'s polypropylene resin business; Thomas Wood, president of Huntsman Corp.'s PP business; and Bob Wood, vice president for engineering thermoplastics, who is directing Dow Chemical Co.'s move into polypropylene. (Actually, none of these Woods is related to one another.)
GOOD GUY AWARD: To Merrill Roth, the former owner of injection molder Grant & Roth in Hillsboro, Ore., who funded an annual $2,500 scholarship at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., for a female plastics engineering student in the school's Department of Engineering Technology. He created the scholarship as a memorial to his spouse of 57 years, Ivy Roth, who died in a 1994 automobile accident.
ALL IN THE FAMILY AWARD: To Mark Bruck, owner of defunct plastics compounder Advance Resins Corp., who was sentenced in July to 111/2 years in prison after being found guilty of, among other things, burning down his company's Chicopee, Mass., warehouse to collect insurance money. He blamed others, including his wife (who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud) and his mother-in-law, for his downfall.
CLARITY IN MARKETING AWARD: To all those who work or worked for plastic granulator companies with Herbold in the name. That includes two former firms (Herbold Granulators USA Inc. and Germany's Herbold GmbH) and two current firms (New Herbold Inc. and Germany's Herbold Zerkleinerungstechnik GmbH). The latter two each spend much of their marketing efforts explaining to the market that they are the real Herbold.
TEMPEST IN A CAR CUP AWARD: To Berry Plastics Corp., which sued Pescor Plastics Inc., Packaging Resources Inc. and PackerWare Corp. for infringing its design patents for drive-through-style plastic cups. All three defendants then countersued Berry. A judge in the Pescor case ruled Berry's patent invalid, thereby annulling the other two suits. Berry is appealing the ruling.
THE GOSH, WE GOOFED AWARD: To the Summit County (Ohio) Council for taking away injection molder Texler Inc.'s tax abatement, then giving it back again. Summit County voted to trim Texler's tax cut after it did not meet jobs-creation requirements. Five months later the county labeled the vote a mistake and reinstated the full cut.
THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST AWARD: To Dart Container Corp. for its Gold, Frankincense and ... Polystyrene?? news release singing the praises of PS foam dinnerware and cups for those special holiday get-togethers. Put Grandma's good china back in the cupboard.
THE ``McCARTHY LIVES!'' AWARD: To one of our readers in Massachusetts, whose recent two-page, handwritten letter lambasted us for accepting a classified ad from a Chinese mold maker. By doing so, he suggested, our ``greedy magazine'' was a ``distinct disgrace'' that was ``contributing to the downfall of our great country.'' (Guess he didn't like our Page 1 feature a month later about offshore mold-sourcing trends, either.)
THIS IS PROGRESS? AWARD: To Monsanto Co., whose researchers have genetically engineered cotton plants to synthesize a natural plastic similar to polyester fiber. (Now, if only we could compound some sheep out of commodity resins, we could get rid of that pesky natural wool, too!)
GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE AWARD: To the National Forestry Breed Research Institute, a subsidiary of the Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which developed a biodegradable plastic from the fiber in aspen trees. Scientists transformed the molecular structure of aspen trees to resemble oil-based plastic by transforming a gene of soil bacteria, PHBC, to the genetic content of the trees. The plastic-like content is reportedly fully biodegradable in 10 months. Now you see it, then you don't.
THE "DO I HEAR 20 CENTS?" AWARD: To the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in South Bend, Ind., which, along with the Internal Revenue Service, held an auction June 14 in South Bend for the child-resistant bottle closure patent held by entrepreneur Carl W. Cooke. Nobody showed up, including Cooke, whom the IRS expected to be there.
INSATIABLE APPETITE AWARD: To Tenneco Inc., which in the past 15 months has become a plastics packaging behemoth via its purchases of both Mobil Chemical Co.'s Plastics Division (for $1.27 billion) and Amoco Foam Products Co. (for $310 million).
ENDLESS PRODUCT TESTING AWARD: To all those plastics industry golfers who attribute their weekly sojourns to the local links to the need to test thoroughly the efficacy of the new plastic golf-shoe cleats, as well as Quadrax Corp.'s thermoplastic golf-club shafts. All in the name of bettering the plastics industry, of course.
CAN'T COPE AWARD: To the Council on Packaging in the Environment, which closed its doors permanently this month, after 10 years of service.
RANDOM FISHING EXPEDITION AWARD: To the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which began investigating the lead-content hazards of vinyl siding this summer, even though PVC siding makers stopped using lead stabilizers in their products 20 years ago. Conclusion: If your house is really, really old, don't lick it.
To all our readers, have a very happy holiday season and a safe and prosperous New Year! Plastics News' offices will be closed Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1 for the holidays. The 1996 edition of the "Market Data Book" will be published Dec. 30.