For the good of the industry, the two major Washington-based plastics trade associations must put aside their bickering and start cooperating.
The American Plastics Council and Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. have a history of cooperation. Absent a merger, which we still feel is the preferred course, the groups need to find ways to continue to work together.
APC always has been sort of a one-trick pony. Its mission has been to boost plastics' image — in association-speak, ``to ensure that plastics are recognized as a preferred material by actively demonstrating that they are a responsible choice in a more environmentally conscious world.''
That focus, and the group's limited membership, have helped make APC very effective.
But now APC is making noise about becoming a ``full-service trade association.'' Leaders say the move is necessary because several APC members have left SPI, and those members need some of the services SPI had provided for them.
We have no doubt that APC is capable of broadening its mission. Effectiveness is not the question. The sticking point is the risk of duplication, inefficiency and the potential to weaken SPI and the industry.
Take, as an example, compilation of resin statistics. This is a service currently provided by SPI. But it seems to be a natural place for APC to expand its services, given that all of APC's members are resin suppliers, and that some of those members no longer belong to SPI.
But wait — there are still many resin suppliers that belong to SPI but do not belong to APC. So it becomes clear very quickly that if the U.S. plastics industry wants to compile accurate resin statistics, SPI and APC will have to work together.
The same applies to federal government lobbying. APC may be well-equipped to handle that duty. Except APC can't claim to speak for the entire U.S. plastics industry, because of its limited membership. To lobby effectively — to ignite a powerful grass-roots effort that includes thousands of processors and machinery representatives — APC is best-served by working with SPI member companies.
And the list goes on. Anything APC does probably can be done better with SPI's support. And although SPI no doubt will survive despite some defections to APC, it will be weakened — especially if the two groups set a course to compete, instead of cooperate.
Emotions are high on both sides of this issue. That's especially the case among SPI members, who feel that APC scuttled merger talks by insisting on unreasonable, non-negotiable conditions.
But the industry would be poorly served by a trade-association power struggle. Leadership is absolutely necessary. We're waiting to see who will step up and provide it.