ATLANTA — Ron Yocum, president of the American Plastics Council, urged the Society of Plastics Engineers' 36,000 members to become an ``army of plastics ambassadors,'' as he kicked off a new APC-SPE alliance.
Yocum, in an April 30 plenary speech at SPE's Annual Technical Conference, also warned of a ``new environmentalism'' — issues like toxic waste and endocrine disrupters — that makes people link environmental concerns with their own personal health.
Yocum spoke to about 175 SPE members in Atlanta on the final day of Antec. The speech came just one week after the alliance was announced by Yocum and SPE Executive Director Michael Cappelletti.
Yocum said SPE members, acting as informed individuals in their communities, can impact public policy, and public opinion.
``You can be an enthusiastic advocate and spokesperson for plastics every day in all the different places you interact with people — those same people who are full of misperceptions about plastics,'' he said.
Washington-based APC, known for its advertising campaign touting plastics, and SPE, based in Brookfield, Conn., have not yet worked out the details of their alliance. Broadly, APC will provide educational materials and guidance. SPE's monthly magazine, Plastics Engineering, will feature a page on APC matters, starting with its June issue. SPE members also will participate in annual state government affairs meetings held by APC with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Yocum also announced that SPE will get office space at APC's new automotive center in Detroit. Winning products of SPE's Automotive Division annual awards will be on permanent display at the center.
Cappelletti said APC will help SPE create a new videotape for children in the fourth through sixth grades. About 9 million high school kids have seen the first SPE video in the past five years.
Cappelletti said he talked to many SPE members about the alliance during the week-long Antec. Their response, he said in an interview after Yocum's speech, was ``feverishly positive. Many of the engineers are chomping at the bit to inform the public.''
``I think he's right on,'' said Donna S. Davis, head of differential product technology for Exxon Chemical Corp. in Baytown, Texas. ``We are equipped to help the public make the right choices.''
The grass-roots effort is appropriate, said Elliott Weinberg, president of Cross Gates Consultants in East Brunswick, N.J.
It's using ``people-to-people interaction outside of the industry to spread the right word,'' he said. ``It's a matter of the individual using [his or her] resources.''
Yocum, former president of resin maker Millennium Petrochemicals Inc., became APC president March 1. He replaced Red Cavaney, who left APC to head the American Petroleum Institute. Yocum had been APC's chairman.
In his Atlanta speech, Yocum outlined changes in the environmental movement.
``Over the last decade, environmentalism has become all about `me' — all about personal relevance,'' Yocum said. ``It's often characterized today as concern about the effect of the environment on the individual. The rise of health and toxics issues, the environmental justice movement and the endocrine disruption issue are all manifestations of this new environmentalism.''
Yocum played some APC ads, which show how plastics have improved people's lives. The ads are effective, he said, but SPE has the grass-roots network to support plastics locally — where the industry's enemies are at work.
``Have no doubt: When these adversaries have an agenda, you can bet they're pushing it in the schools, in community meetings and in the legislatures,'' he said.