January: Suiza Foods Corp. acquires Continental Can Co. Inc. for $345 million, becoming one of the largest bottle makers in North America. Suiza entered the plastics arena in 1997 with its $400 million purchase of Garelick Farms Inc., a dairy and water bottler.
March: The list of Society of Plastics Industry Inc. defectors grows, with Amoco Foam Products Inc. and Solvay Polymers Inc. planning to pull out, following Exxon Chemical Co. and preceding Nova Chemicals Inc. Within two months, the SMC Automotive Alliance jumps ship to join the Composites Fabricators Association. Adding to SPI's problems, its Composites Institute's board members consider forming a rival trade group. While that move never materializes, some CI members do defect to CFA.
March: Eleven state attorneys general take a closer look at the use of PVC in toys, citing concerns raised by Greenpeace that the toys contain hazardous levels of lead and cadmium. Weeks later, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers labels PVC a recycling contaminant.
May: Chrysler Corp. merges with Daimler-Benz AG in a $38 billion deal.
June: The Surface Transportation Board approves splitting Conrail between Norfolk Southern and CSX, a massive consolidation of the rail system in the East. The agency says it will take steps to keep the deal from creating the traffic snarls that plagued Union Pacific's purchase of Southern Pacific.
June: Lyondell Petrochemical Co. agrees to buy Arco Chemical Co. in a deal worth $5.6 billion.
June: Geon Co. and Occidential Chemicals Corp. agree to form a venture that will be the largest PVC producer in North America, with 4.2 billion pounds of capacity.
July: Automotive suppliers feel the pain of United Auto Worker strikes at two General Motors Corp. plants. As the strikes enter their seventh week in late July, GM and its Delphi Automotive Systems parts-making unit have laid off more than 190,000 workers. The silver lining in the strike is that GM vows to outsource more fuel tank manufacturing, and makes a quicker-than-expected move from steel tanks into plastic.
August (with cartoon): American Plastics Council releases its 1997 recycling statistics. The plastic bottle and container recycling rate falls for the second straight year, prompting speculation that plastics recycling has reached a plateau or is slipping. The rate fell from 21.2 percent in 1996 to 20.2 in 1997. What's more, 5-15 percent of what's counted as recycled plastic is contaminated.