(Dec. 12, 2005) — A few years ago, when the American Plastics Council and the American Chemistry Council decided to merge, some in the plastics industry predicted that ACC would eventually swallow APC.
It turns out they were right.
ACC announced Dec. 2 that it was restructuring, and Rod Lowman, APC's president, left that same day to head a new group, the Abundant Forests Alliance.
Plastics processors don't seem to be too concerned. Their response can pretty much be summed up in two words: “So what?”
Maybe you can attribute that to the spin that APC is putting on the news. One top board member told us last week that the changes will strengthen the plastics sector at ACC. Well I'm skeptical. You see, I remember back when APC left the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., in 1994, and APC leaders said (presumably with a straight face) that the change would mean the two groups would work together more closely than ever.
Even if you were barely paying attention, you know that's not the way things worked those first few years. SPI and APC have mended fences now, and the U.S. plastics industry is much better off as a result. But APC, like just about any group touched by the Beltway Bug, has a way of putting a favorable spin on unpleasant news.
The other reason that processors don't care about APC's changes is because processors were never really part of the big picture at APC. Sure, APC called on processors to be part of their grass-roots lobbying efforts. But APC's primary mission has been to boost the image of plastics, and now it seems they have declared: “Mission accomplished.”
APC's main weapon in the battle has been its hefty advertising budget — most recently devoted to the “Plastics Make It Possible” campaign. APC does a lot of other important work, including the efforts at some subgroups that are very important to some plastics processors — the Vinyl Institute, Polystyrene Packaging Council, and Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, for example. I have no doubt that those groups will survive the demise of APC.
But the real bad news for the plastics industry didn't happen last week — it came earlier this year, when ACC announced that it was dropping the pro-plastics advertising campaign and starting a similar effort on behalf of the chemical industry. Without the ads, APC does not have a reason to exist. It's searched for one, but it hasn't come up with anything that requires the same devotion and financial commitment.
So its member company CEOs, who really think of their firms as chemical companies anyway, now can go off and crusade on behalf of chemicals.
And the bottom line is that processors may not miss APC, but they will miss the ads.
Don Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News.