Industry should help EPA clean up claims
The Environmental Protection Agency was correct to crack down on the proliferation of claims being made about the germ-fighting capabilities of some specially treated plastic products.
Consumer products companies always look for an edge. They need to tout something special that differentiates their merchandise from competitors' goods. All the better if it creates an opportunity to charge a premium price.
The plastics industry is eager to oblige this desire, with innovative products such as nonstick cookware and microwavable storage containers. The latest wrinkle came in the form of anti-microbial additives that can be molded into products like kitchenware, toys and children's highchairs.
Consumers are keenly aware of the hazards of E. coli bacteria, particularly those that arise from the handling of raw meat. The benefits of a bacteria-fighting cutting board, therefore, are obvious.
But problems surfaced when it came time to market products that contain the additives. As the head of EPA's Antimicrobials Division complained, ``There seems to be no end to the proliferation of uses, and no end to the marketing some companies can come up with.''
Some of the marketing went too far, touching on what EPA considered to be health claims. Consumer advocates worried that the public would take the claims too seriously and become lax in regular, thorough cleaning of the treated products.
EPA's enforcement, including a hard line it took last month at the National Housewares Manufacturers Association show in Chicago, was unfortunate but necessary. It always will be difficult for industry to police itself in cases like this. It's tough to stop one or two firms from pushing the envelope with questionable marketing claims.
Now industry needs to help EPA clarify what these products can and cannot do. In the end the public will be better served, and industry will save itself from potentially embarrassing legal action should the products fail to perform as advertised.
PN covers all sectors
This week's issue of Plastics News is pretty typical. In addition to a special report that features detailed data on 229 North American thermoforming companies, it also includes news stories on a variety of processing companies.
Some readers — particularly those from companies not in the injection molding business — believe PN's coverage is weighted too much toward that sector. It's true the injection molding sector, the plastics industry's largest processing segment, is very active, and that we aim to cover it thoroughly. In 1997, we ran more than 750 news stories about injection molding.
But other processes also were well-represented on our news pages last year: 422 stories on plastic film, 336 on plastic sheet, 316 on blow molders, 227 on compounders, 217 on profile extruders, 184 on pipe extruders, 184 on thermoforming, 149 on tubing extruders and 138 on rotomolders.
It's only natural to think that news about your own company or industry is the most important. That's why Plastics News and its Web site (www.plasticsnews.com) provide a balance of timely, in-depth news coverage that readers can't get anywhere else.