AKRON, OHIO — At the World Vinyl Forum, Charlie Cray and Joel Tickner didn't have to worry about people talking about them behind their backs — since most of the 425 in attendance were more than happy to talk about them right to their faces.
Cray, a toxins campaigner for Greenpeace, and Tickner, a researcher who works with that environmental group, spent the forum in enemy territory. Greenpeace has labeled PVC ``the poison plastic'' because of its alleged dioxin content.
The toxin-bashing twosome found themselves mixing with a crowd filled with many of the vinyl industry's heavy hitters. They emerged unscathed, although many of the forum's speakers made at least passing reference to Greenpeace and the damage the group has done to the industry's image.
Cray said he attended the forum because he wanted to see what the PVC industry was talking about internally and how seriously it was taking environmental issues.
He described his post-forum reactions as ``a mixed bag.''
``The industry is obviously in complete denial on the dioxin issue,'' Cray said. ``But they're willing to confront the reality that their product isn't recycled as much as other materials.''
Cray, who said forum organizers allowed himself and Tickner to attend as long as they agreed not to disrupt the proceedings, added he wished Greenpeace had been asked to speak at the event to fully explain its views.
After two days of mingling with people who owe their livelihoods to a product his organization has condemned, Cray said he was treated well.
``Some of the people in the industry showed they can be as emotional as they've accused us of being,'' Cray added. ``There was no real hostility, but some people were sort of biting their tongues trying to be polite.''