EAST LANSING, MICH. — Members of the Society of Plastics Engineers Western Michigan Section logged hundreds of miles between schools, colleges and county fairs last year. To thank them for supporting their industry, the Arlington, Va.-based American Plastics Council will send them out on a few more road trips.
APC President Ronald Yocum presented the section with the top national award for local activism April 10 during a joint SPE and APC summit and technical conference in East Lansing, praising it for "setting the standard."
The group's work, spearheaded by President Ricardo L. Ramirez, is important in promoting a business that other activists want to tear down, Yocum said.
"We need you out there talking to your neighbors," he said. "We need you to talk to the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, the League of Women Voters — anybody that will give you the podium."
The Western Michigan Section spent $50,000 on education in 1999, with the PlastiVan program hitting schools and other sites for five weeks.
The APC recognition adds $2,500 to the organization's educational efforts and another $1,000 for individual work by Ramirez. APC also is donating another two weeks' worth of visits by the PlastiVan, Yocum said.
"We need to be out there, giving the scientific facts," he said. "We mistakenly believe that if science is on our side, then we win — but in today's world, perception wins."
The East Lansing meeting was planned to help industry leaders learn more about potential legislation affecting plastics and ways they can promote their product.
While no legislators were available for the session, members met briefly with Keith Harrison, executive director of the Michigan Environmental Science Board, which prepares reports on various issues for Gov. John Engler.
State lawmakers are not required to address the board's concerns, Harrison said, but the board can have an impact. Past studies have looked at everything from fish population to a failed proposal to halt chlorine use in the state.
"A ban of chlorine definitely would have hurt us," said Genise K. Smith-Watkins, director of state and local public affairs for APC's Midwest Regional Office. "A lot of your companies may have gone out of business if they had gone with that."
Industry leaders must lobby for their cause, Yocum said.
"It's something we're not used to, but we'd better get with it," he said. "We have to be able to stand up and make sure the government understands what it should be doing and what it should not be doing in regards to plastics."