Each year, Plastics News presents its Plastic Globe awards, given to dubious or otherwise unusual newsmakers from the past 12 months.
JUST DON'T GET THE CELL PHONE WET AWARD: To Motorola Inc. and Pvaxx Research & Development, which developed a mobile phone that will degrade and grow into a sunflower when thrown away. The polyvinyl alcohol cover contains a sunflower seed. Motorola has not decided whether to commercialize the product.
CHRISTMAS GRINCH AWARD: To Finnish customs officials, who burned 10 tons of illegal, imitation Lego blocks seized while en route from China to Russia. Why not recycle them instead?
MIXED-METAPHOR AWARD: To David Stockman, chief of injection molder Collins & Aikman Corp., for this quote from a conference call with analysts: “We had a lot of head wind in front of us, but we've been able to lift the nose 15 percent from where we were last year. But still, we're not going to sit on our oars.” We have a feeling Stockman has never actually been in a rowboat, if he thinks you can sit on your oars.
BUT IT MATCHES MY KITCHEN CABINETS AWARD: To Swedx, a firm in Stockholm, Sweden, that makes wood computers and peripherals. Despite promotions in magazines like Nature, sales were slow — possibly because the products cost about 30 percent more than plastic versions. And watch out for those termites!
NO AUTOGRAPHS, PLEASE, AWARD: To the North American International Auto Show for its January news release welcoming a “traveling cardboard cutout” of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres to the Detroit show. Attendees had the chance to talk to the real Ellen via a phone link to Los Angeles.
IT WAS A JOKE, OK? AWARD: To Solvay Advanced Polymers, which actually used a line from The Graduate in a January news release for Torlon polyamide imide. Please, people, no more Benjamin Braddock references!
PLASTICS PIONEER AWARD: To Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale in Vinci, Italy, who announced in February that famed hometown inventor Leo-nardo da Vinci should be credited with inventing the first natural plastic. “He combined colors with animal or vegetable glues, sometimes adding organic fibers,” Vezzosi told Discovery News. Materials included the stomach of a heifer, lettuce leaves and cabbage. If true, da Vinci's plastics would predate modern varieties by about 400 years.
PLASTICS SAVES LIVES AWARD: To taverns in Glasgow, Scotland, which decided to serve drinks in plastic tumblers or bottles instead of glass. About half the city's nightclubs made the switch, and according to police, serious assaults involving glass bottles dropped 30 percent.
MORALE-KILLER AWARD: To Robert Wood, top executive at Crompton Corp., who revealed — at the tail end of an analysts' conference call — that Crompton no longer wants its Davis-Standard unit. The cost-cutting Crompton has yet to sell the division.
DISPUTED DOMAIN AWARD: To the American Plastics Council, for secretly registering a Web site address that the California Coastal Commission wanted to use for a campaign against plastic litter.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AWARD: To the China Currency Coalition, a group of U.S. businesses whose petition asking the U.S. government to review China's currency policy was rejected the same day it was filed.
WAS IT WORTH THE MONEY? AWARD: To Vic De Zen, terminated founder of Royal Group Technologies Ltd. De Zen and two top executives were fired after investigations revealed they profited from selling land to the company.
FIGHTING THE FORCES OF PACKAGING EVIL AWARD: To Polyair Inter Pack Inc., for unveiling at Pack Expo a series of superheroes that “battle against the evils of everyday delivery.” Booth visitors marveled at Bubble Girl, Mailer Man, The Inflator, Captain Foam and The Foil, all with capes, masks and chiseled torsos.
FROSTY MUG AWARD: To Sonoco Products Co. and development partner OnTech LLC for delivering a self-heating plastic container that keeps coffee warm. Now, the firms plans beer container that cools down when the tab is pulled. Perhaps they'll work so well that sports fans won't want to throw them on the field.
CAREER CHANGER OF THE YEAR AWARD: To Randy Blin, who found a new calling after selling Triangle Plastics Inc. in 1999. Blin now collects and sells bull semen on a ranch in Oklahoma.
CAN'T BELIEVE THE TABLOIDS AWARD: To Owens-Illinois Inc. For months it was rumored that O-I was selling its blow molding unit to Blackstone Group and Graham Packaging Co. LP. The New York Post ran the story the same day it reported that John Kerry would choose Dick Gephardt as his presidential running mate. While the Kerry story proved false, the O-I deal was confirmed three weeks later. Credibility restored!
WE'RE A $100 MILLION COMPANY, GIVE OR TAKE $60 MILLION AWARD: To compounder Gitto Global Corp., whose bankruptcy proceedings make the Martha Stewart case look like a tea party. In a nice literary touch, officials who allegedly overstated sales for several years referred to the room where invoices were prepared as “the secret garden.”
IRAN, SO FAR AWAY AWARD: To Iran National Petrochemical Co. At K 2004, the firm held a news conference in a building on the far outskirts of the fairgrounds and failed to explain that Deputy Oil Minister Mohammed Nematzedeh would meet with reporters. As a result, the high-ranking Nematzedeh found only a smattering of journalists at an event for which more than 1,000 press credentials had been issued.
METAPHOR OVERKILL AWARD: To Australian Science Minister Peter McGauran, who launched a two-day nationwide boycott of plastic bags by comparing them with nuclear waste.