With our first issue of 2004, Plastics News again updates and restates its agenda for the industry. This plan helps to guide our editorial positions and gives our readers a blueprint to prioritize their work-related efforts and help manage their companies.
Safety must come first, before shareholders, profit, customers, growth - everything. Processors, suppliers, workers and regulators must work together and share best practices to make the industry a leader in worker and community safety.
Fairness and honesty should be key in all business relationships. Corporate and trade association leaders have a duty to provide a positive ethical compass for employees and business partners.
Making the community aware of the size and importance of the plastics industry is a priority. Plastics is the fourth-largest U.S. manufacturing industry, measured by value of shipments. Including suppliers, plastics provides some 1.4 million jobs. Even so, the industry suffers from a lack of recognition.
When possible, the industry should speak with a unified voice. This requires cooperation at the highest levels of the leading trade associations, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and American Plastics Council. It also requires that those groups work together with important international and regional associations, and with groups that represent important sectors, including composites fabricators and toolmakers. SPI needs to retain resin supplier membership and continue to attract and involve more processors.
The free market is the best mechanism for raising the standard of living, encouraging democracy and rewarding hard work. Free trade is an important part of the equation, since it inspires stability around the world. Sometimes free trade will cause sporadic damage to market segments, specific companies and individual workers. The government should minimize that harm, within the spirit of encouraging efficiency rather than sustaining unproductive enterprises.
Government's power to tax should be watched carefully. Tax policies should motivate entrepreneurs and investors, help industry to compete globally, and strive for fairness for all citizens.
Processors must encourage good workers to stay in the industry. That means paying a good wage and offering benefits including education, flexible work time, child-care credits and job sharing.
Organizations should strive for diversity in their workforces, including management. Women and minorities represent a substantial, yet underutilized, reservoir of potential talent for the industry.
Recycling efforts must be promoted. Americans have become too comfortable in their habit of throwing away used plastics items. Industry, sometimes intentionally, has encouraged that wastefulness. Recycling, like source reduction and reuse, should be part of an active effort to avoid waste.
Safe waste-to-energy incineration should be part of the solution, but industry should not rely on that remedy. Burning plastics is an ineffective way to recover the value already invested in creating the material. The industry should support a national bottle bill, since bottle-deposit programs have proved effective in collecting a clean, valuable recycling stream.
Tell us what you think of our agenda by e-mailing [email protected] plasticsnews.com. Please include your name, firm and location if you would like us to publish your thoughts as a letter to the editor.