WASHINGTON — The American Plastics Council officially has decided to broaden its mission to become a full-service resin trade group, putting it into competition for members with its one-time ally, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
APC leaders decided April 12 that they will now provide Food and Drug Administration work, resin statistics, transportation and some code and standards setting for their members. Washington-based APC and SPI historically have divided functions, with APC focusing on advertising, solid waste and endocrine issues.
Leaders of both groups said they want to work together, and Solvay America Inc. President Whitson Sadler said APC was going to propose to SPI that they establish a high-level coordinating committee.
The industry's high-minded aim of cooperation was running counter to recent developments, however:
Equistar Chemicals LP became the sixth of 24 APC member companies to leave SPI. Equistar termed it a cost-cutting measure. Sources said several more resin-firm departures are expected.
The Polystyrene Packaging Council became the first business unit to leave SPI and align itself with APC.
The Plastics Pipe Institute said April 15 it will leave SPI and become independent.
APC officials said another half-dozen SPI units have explored affiliating with APC, including the Vinyl Institute and the Polyurethane Division.
APC decided that SPI representatives no longer will sit on its board.
SPI decided to stop providing APC with administrative services on a contract basis. APC is looking for new offices.
``We've already seen a demonstration that APC and SPI are going to be in competition,'' said SPI Chairman Harry Ussery. ``In many respects, SPI finds itself under attack by APC and the larger companies.''
APC officials said they are expanding to meet the needs of resin companies that have left SPI, and blamed the failure of merger talks. Sadler said both sides agreed on most things, but talks hung up on APC's insistence on 50 percent control on key decisions.
APC voted 31-3 to broaden its mission. While overwhelmingly supportive, the vote is an unusual public acknowledgement of dissent at the normally unified APC.
Several SPI officials said some firms may resign from APC.
GE Plastics in Pittsfield, Mass., and Aristech Chemical Corp. in Pittsburgh voted against broadening APC's mission. GE cast one vote and Aristech two. APC companies can have two votes at a meeting if two executives attend.
GE Plastics Vice President Nani Beccalli said he voted no to show support for continuing merger talks. He said GE will remain in both groups.
Pat Jack, president of Aristech, said he was concerned about spending money on both APC and SPI when they duplicate functions. Jack is a past chairman of SPI and was an officer of Fina Oil and Chemical Co. when it left APC.
Sources said another SPI officer who sits on the APC board, Peter Bokach, vice president of Ashland Chemical Co., abstained from the APC vote.
APC does not have firm estimates of how much its new services will cost. But the group does not plan to spend more than $1 million out of its core budget of nearly $42 million, said APC spokeswoman Susan Moore.
That does not mean APC plans to provide all of the functions for $1 million — some of the services will be paid for just by the companies that use them, Moore said.
By comparison, sources estimated SPI spends $600,000 on its resin statistics program and more than $1 million on its FDA work.
APC also may add more technical activity and endocrine research for bisphenol A.
``Basically, in my mind, what will happen here is SPI will become more of a processor organization and APC will become the resin organization,'' Sadler said.
Sid Rains, leader of SPI's most recent negotiating team, said APC's proposal would have given it ``dictatorial power'' and ``would totally destroy any value SPI could provide for machinery companies and processors.''
``All the power would be in the APC,'' he said.
Under SPI's proposal, ``resin companies could have had their own business unit and totally control their ad spending. There was never any attempt to limit their ability to control their own money,'' he said.
Rains is an SPI board member and vice president of sales and marketing for Van Dorn Demag Corp. in Strongsville, Ohio.