(July 5, 2004) — It's time for another of our irregular installments in one of our least favorite games: bashing the press.
First, an important caveat: a lot of news coverage of the plastics industry is really good. It's balanced, it explains things clearly and without bias, it gives both sides of the story and it doesn't rely on quoting The Graduate.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case:
* Reading any of the hundreds of reports around the world about plastic and litter, you'd think the ONLY possible solution to this problem is either to tax or ban plastic bags. It's very rare to see any stories that give another solution. What's wrong with educating the public, or stiffer fines against littering?
* Lately, our newsroom has been busy with calls from newspaper reporters who want to know what impact high oil prices have on plastics companies.
OK, that's a fair question, if you ignore all of the misconceptions behind the premise. First of all, high oil prices mean higher transportation costs, which affect all businesses. But that's too obvious. So then we have to talk about resin and feedstocks, which do come from oil, although natural gas is a more important part of the equation, at least in North America. But the bottom line is so much simpler: It's supply and demand! As the economy improves, demand picks up, and prices rise, at least until suppliers invest in new capacity. Why do so many people forget this simple lesson from Economics 101?
* Much of the coverage of health issues, particularly involving PVC or anything that sounds vaguely chemical-related, continues to be biased, or at least incomplete.
The bottom line: the public gets a lot of negative messages about plastics every day. Although some large media outlets like the New York Times get a bad reputation for an alleged liberal bias, the truth is that those papers do a better job at giving both sides of the story. Dare we say it — fair and balanced reporting?