The American Plastics Council is demonstrating on a small scale in environmentally sensitive Oregon why it has one of the more effective industry public relations campaigns in the United States.
APC spent $20 million nationally last year on television, radio and print ads touting, among other things, quality-of-life issues, such as the ``plastics make it possible,'' campaign. The strategy is a good one, opening the door for concrete local programs to push the concept, as the Portland project does.
There, APC has donated two plastic playgrounds to grade schools and anticipates installing a third. The trade association says it was approached by the city's Bureau of Environmental Services to help boost its plastic bottle collection, which resulted in a matching challenge.
If Portland could increase the curbside collection by 18 percent by the end of 1996, APC said it would provide three playgrounds to three elementary schools. For each 6 percent rise in the collection rate, a school would get a playground, worth about $15,000 each, according to individuals involved in the project.
By last Nov. 1, the city's rate was up 12.4 percent. It got two PlayVenture playgrounds manufactured by Recreation Resource of Salem, Ore. That, APC President Red Cavaney said in a press release, ``is a true example of closing the recycling loop.''
The Portland project is a solid exercise in public relations. It directly benefits a community and showcases a recycled plastic product less susceptible to damage and graffiti.
APC might consider expanding the incentive program to other cities, as well, judging from the Jan. 22 vote of the California Integrated Waste Management Board setting a range of 23.3-25.9 percent as that state's overall 1995 recycling rate for rigid plastics packaging.
Four board members were critical of the plastics industry for not doing enough to encourage recycling.
This is not an issue that is going away. Many people do not believe the industry is doing a satisfactory job. Proving otherwise remains a critical political issue.