USPL's first quarter shows brighter side
I wanted to express my deep disappointment regarding the recent headline of your article concerning U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp. (``Debt threatens to bury USPL,'' April 8, Page 4).
While you copied various sentences from our 10K report, nowhere in your article did you mention that those results and auditor statements concerned last year's results. Much of the negative information had already been reported in our quarterly reports and certainly wasn't new. Moreover, the truly new news in your article that deserved the headline was neglected.
The most recent news is we are expecting to report a profit in the first quarter of 2002. We expect to have positive cash flow in excess of $2.5 million from operations. There are many people at USPL who have worked extremely hard to put the company back on sound financial footing. The success of that effort was indicated in the information that was released and certainly deserved the emphasis of your headline. The mechanisms to restructure our debt, and take advantage of our improved operating results, are in place and will be concluded shortly.
I would suggest that a more accurate headline would be ``USPL reports 2001 loss and announces success of restructuring effort.'' While a quickly written headline certainly sounds exciting when adjectives like ``bury'' are used, it does a disservice to the facts and injures our current ability to do business. At the very least, Plastics News should have contacted someone from our company for updated information.
I look forward to your report on our first-quarter results. I would fully expect equal-sized headlines and placement of that article when compared to your April 8 article.
Mark S. Alsentzer
U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp.
Boca Raton, Fla.
Hoffman: Where'd ya get those lawyers?
Congratulations are in order.
First, to Hoffman Plastic Compounds Inc. and its president, Ron Hoffman, for fighting 13 years all the way to the Supreme Court and wresting a decision from five justices that illegal aliens are not entitled to the wages and benefits accorded to legal aliens and citizens (April 1, Page 4, ``Supreme Court ruling favors Hoffman in immigrant case'').
Second, to five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court for coming to a decision that corrects at least one of the generally leftist-liberal National Labor Relations Board's decisions and similarly rationalized appellate court rulings, by giving reasoned review under law, principle and common sense, which all business people can find comfort and reassurance in.
Third, to Hoffman's lawyers who prevailed in this lengthy case.
One crucially important question arises from this matter, however, which the entire plastics industry wants to have answered. How did Hoffman find attorneys competent enough to win a Supreme Court case taking 13 years to conclude for only ``$45,000 [in] fighting the case''?
George A. Makrauer
Treasure Island, Fla.
PN ignores usefulness of citizen advocacy
In its March 25 Viewpoint, Plastics News congratulated Pepsi-Cola Co. for finally joining Coca-Cola Co.'s breakthrough announcement to use 10 percent recycled content in their PET bottles (``PET recycling effort depends on supply,'' Page 6).
This is a significant event for recyclers. Adding perhaps 70 million pounds of new demand each year to the approximately 100 million pounds previously committed by Coke will be a major boost for the economics of PET recycling in an industry that only processed domestically 527 million pounds in 2000, of which just 54 million pounds went into beverage bottles.
Improving the economics for local programs (bottle markets pay about 7 cents more per pound than fiber markets) will, over time, increase the supply of material. Increasing supply is critical for plastic reclaimers that presently have substantial excess capacity.
So certainly, congratulations are in order. But let's not forget how this all came about and what remains to be done.
In 1990, then-Coke Senior Vice President (later Chief Executive Officer) Douglas Ivester committed the company to voluntarily use 25 percent recycled content in an effort to head off legislative mandates.
However, as the political winds shifted with the election of a Republican majority in Congress in 1994, Coke quietly withdrew its promise because, the company claimed, recycled-content bottles produced with depolymerization technology (which was the only one available at the time) were too expensive. That explanation did not seem convincing, since the high costs of depolymerizing resins back to their monomers was known from the start.
This is the situation that languished until March 1997 when the GrassRoots Recycling Network initiated its Coke campaign in a letter to Coke's then-CEO Roberto C. Goizuetta. There followed several years of direct and highly visible actions by GRRN - including ads in the New York Times - that spurred shareholder actions and the formation of Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling. Then, in April 2001, Coke came through with its commitment to use 10 percent recycled content across its product line by 2005, now joined by Pepsi.
We do not mean to imply citizen advocacy can, by itself, accomplish everything. Had there not been a changing of the guard in Coke's executive suites, it is far less likely Coke would have looked for ways to constructively respond to legitimate public concerns.
And, had innovative bottle manufacturers not developed new, less-expensive technologies to use recycled content, the crushing economics of depolymerization would have made it impossible for bottom-line companies like Coke and Pepsi to move off the dime.
But GRRN was one of the major actors in this saga. Without us, the move to recycled content, and all the benefits it holds for recycling, would never had happened. Coke environmental manager Ben Jordan conceded as much at last year's Plastics Encounter conference in Atlanta, when he said that one of the reasons for the company's new public-spirited approach was public pressure.
Like Plastics News, GRRN has not lost sight of the soft drink makers' 1990 goal of using 25 percent recycled plastic. Clearly 25 percent recycled-content plastic bottles can be achieved by 2005.
GRRN believes that increased recycled-content levels need to be accompanied by dramatically increased supply of recycled PET, and that deposit or redemption laws are the best way to accomplish that. Whether that will happen, however, will depend upon there being a healthy dollop of citizen activism.
GRRN will be there, and we hope that others in industry who are dependent upon successful recycling will appreciate us for the critical role concerned and activated citizens constructively play in the process. Credit ought to be given where it is due, even if that means recognizing those with whom one disagrees.
GrassRoots Recycling Network