The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is stepping up its political outreach efforts in this election year, and it is getting more engaged in natural-gas lobbying.
Lori Anderson, planning and industry relations manager of the Washington-based trade association, briefed attendees of SPI's machinery and mold-makers divisions on these and other policy issues at the groups' joint conference May 3 in Orlando.
SPI in late April partnered with the Business Industry Political Action Committee to provide an online informational service to plastics industry members. The venture offers, via the BIPAC Web site at www.bi pac.org, background on key political issues and research on the voting records of congressional representatives on those issues, while also facilitating communication with the elected officials.
Anderson explained that SPI is using the American Forest & Paper Association as a model for the planned site. SPI provided BIPAC with a list of issues of relevance to the plastics industry, and the political action committee is compiling the relevant data. SPI selected its targets based on three primary criteria: congressional races that are expected to be closely contested; elected officials representing plastics-intensive regions; and officials on congressional committees that affect plastics interests.
A user will be able to go to the SPI portion of the BIPAC Web site, key in his or her zip code, and get an instant report on how local legislators voted on these key issues. SPI also will provide customizable form letters online, which users either can download or personalize and submit electronically to the elected officials. Anderson said SPI will aggressively communicate this tool to its members, but that anyone in the plastics industry can use it.
Additionally, SPI planned to organize up to 25 tours between now and the November elections for similarly targeted congressional members at the plants of SPI member companies. The mission is to communicate to these elected officials the importance both of the plastics industry and of certain key issues to this constituency. Anderson said Peter Jones, president of Lynchburg, Va.-based Wexco Corp., has agreed to host the first such tour. Wexco makes plasticating cylinders.
``These efforts go beyond what SPI traditionally has done in my 14 years [at the association], as regards outreach,'' she noted.
Also in the political arena, SPI recently joined the fledgling Natural Gas Coalition, which is a program within the American Chemistry Council of Arlington, Va., parent of the American Plastics Council. The new unit will focus on grass-roots lobbying and on working with the media to help explain the toll soaring energy prices are having on the nation's manufacturers.
On another front, SPI in conjunction with the APC is resurrecting an environmental program that Anderson said has been dormant for years. ``Operation Clean Sweep'' aims to educate plastics companies about their legal and moral obligations to ensure they properly clean up and dispose of all stray resin pellets. Otherwise, fish, birds and other wildlife have a tendency to feed on the pellets, often with fatal - and increasingly publicized - consequences.
``Zero pellet loss is our goal,'' Anderson said. Not only is pellet control good business practice, but the lack thereof violates storm-water management laws in many states. ``A pellet dropped in Iowa can end up in the Gulf, in the ocean,'' she said.
``There are some bad actors, and industry shouldn't hide that fact,'' Anderson said. ``We should educate these companies that they not only are breaking the law, but they're not being good corporate citizens.'' She acknowledged that by being proactive and voluntarily responsible, industry hopes to ward off onerous legislation to make it comply.
``We can't just bury our heads,'' she said.
Though early efforts are focused on California, where some of the most vocal opposition has occurred, Anderson said it applies to all plastics companies.
``It is a national issue,'' she said. ``We hope to launch it nationally.''