Blue PET argument lacks conviction
Imagine my surprise when I read that Robin Cotchan of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers considers Coca-Cola's blue-tinted water bottle to be ``not as valuable'' as clear PET, and a problem for recyclers [``Beer bottle recycling discussed,'' March 1]. This despite the fact that my company, and others like mine, like to buy large quantities of blue PET because it provides excellent anti-yellowing properties when blended with clear recycled PET.
Now imagine my further surprise when the next sentence told me that the Grass Roots Recycling Network (I'm not sure who these folks are, or how much recycling they actually perform) said that the Coke water bottle ``places marketing before recycling.'' I guess I am surprised because that order of priority seems about right. Would the Grass Roots folks want recycling to come before marketing? I don't see how that would work. Don't you have to market something before you can recycle it?
But wait! I'm not done being surprised yet! Both of these odd comments were tacked on to the tail end of an article about plastic beer bottle recycling. It seems to me that if the Coke water bottle didn't even rate its own article, then maybe you were just filling space with something that isn't news.
Phoenix Technologies LP
Bowling Green, Ohio
SPI, APC unification best serves industry
As chairman of SPI's team for the most recent merger talks between the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Plastics Council, I have received numerous expressions of concern from members of the plastics industry about how this matter is progressing. Clearly, there is a strong feeling among a wide range of industry leaders that certain resin producers are engaged in a misguided attempt to drive APC into a competitive position with the SPI as a so-called ``full-service trade association.''
I am convinced by my own experience and the thoughtful views of my colleagues that unification and coordination, not balkanization and unproductive competition, best serve this industry. The long-established partnership between processors, resin suppliers and equipment manufacturers that is the bedrock of SPI is extremely valuable. If we lose this important working relationship after nurturing it for more than 60 years, we will surely regret it.
With this in mind, what follows is an attempt to summarize and express some of the views and questions that my colleagues have shared with me in recent weeks.
The philosophy of these thoughtful industry leaders is summed up by this quote by Renoir: ``The saddest thing in life is the fact that every man has his reasons.'' Unfortunately, there is a widespread lack of understanding as to why an industry so universally committed to the ideal of unified representation is now faced with the prospect of two separate and competing trade associations. Perhaps this is because no one can comprehend the reasons behind the APC's current course of action.
The value of presenting a united front must be universal, because even in these contentious times it is cited by nearly everyone as an important industry goal. It defies reason to accept the notion that an industry is better served if it presents conflicting views or duplicates efforts.
SPI has a strong record in preserving and opening markets for plastics, and it is held in high regard by the industry, government agencies and global partners. The APC has had great success to date with its highly focused mission to improve the public perception of plastics. Given this, why is APC so ready to broaden its jurisdiction and pursue a separate association where the views of machinery and equipment manufacturers, processors and even nonresin material suppliers are not welcome or valued?
Why are the CEOs who sit on APC's board taking this action to the great dismay of their many ``sweat equity'' staffers who are deeply involved, and, in many cases, hold leadership positions in SPI's important programs and business units? Why are those five resin companies who have left SPI reportedly pressuring their APC colleagues to do the same? Business must be good if they can afford to ignore the recommendations of their staff ``on the ground'' and take such a cavalier attitude toward the needs of their own customers.
Why not instead pursue a peaceful coexistence where resin and monomer suppliers continue to meet their objectives by supporting both organizations to the fullest extent — or by pursing a reasonable proposal that would give all members of the industry an equal voice in a unified trade association?
Much has been made of the need to reduce costs associated with trade association participation. Membership in APC is believed to cost members $2 million to $4 million a year, while SPI's maximum dues rate for resin suppliers is $164,000. Why compete with SPI when supporting its existing, very successful activities provides such high value at such a bargain price? Why attempt to destroy an organization whose credibility and long-standing relationships with key government agencies and other stakeholders are second-to-none?
And why put these decisions in the hands of CEOs who are not familiar with SPI and its work? We've heard a good deal lately about the ``golden rule'' —he who has the gold makes the rules. But if APC companies want to make the rules — or change them — the right way to do it is to stay in SPI and make a cogent case before the whole industry. Instead, it seems that politics and egotism, rather than the best interests of the plastics industry, are driving the debate.
I sat down to talk about a merger with my colleagues from SPI and APC with a charge from SPI's board to enter into these discussions in good faith, without precondition, and with a goal of achieving a unified plastics industry association. It soon became clear to me that the APC members of the team were prepared to talk only about the ``Twin Towers Plus'' proposal, and were not able or willing either to consider modifications to that proposal or to engage in meaningful dialogue about other merger options that would be acceptable to the SPI membership.
I have also spent the better part of a year helping to create a restructuring plan for SPI that was unanimously accepted by the SPI board and that creates plenty of latitude for APC and its programs to continue to operate with autonomy within the context of a broad-based plastics industry association. There appears to be agreement among those I have heard from that this plan could serve as a starting point for a unified organization. Likewise, if aspects of the APC's ``Twin Towers'' proposal can be modified so that they would be palatable to the rest of the industry, that would be another plan worth considering.
And if the time is not right for a merger, let's accept that and move on in a mutually cooperative way, rather than moving toward an acrimonious and pointless battle that will polarize the industry, engender ill will and damage the industry's credibility and effectiveness.
We — and by that I mean every plastics company: machinery manufacturer, mold maker, material supplier, processor, members and nonmembers of both SPI and APC — make up one of the world's most successful and forward-thinking manufacturing industries. Let's put the interests of that industry first.
Van Dorn Demag