The news that Segolene Royal will participate in a runoff election for president of France reminds me of her visit to the K show in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1992. Royal, then France's Environment minister, participated in a debate sponsored by the Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe. About 300 people attended, including leaders of most of the plastics trade associations in the Western world. I got a big kick out of covering event. I was in my second year at Plastics News, and on my first trip to Europe. Royal spoke in French, and I took notes while I listened to the translation on a big set of headphones. It was like covering a United Nations session. After the event, I got copies of photos of Royal supplied by the event organizers. Most were very serious shots of her speaking, but there was one goofy photo where she was smiling broadly and making an exaggerated gesture toward her headphones. I included that photo in the batch that we shipped back to Akron -- this was pre-email, of course -- thinking that the copy desk back home would get a kick out of it. Later, I was surprised to see that was the photo they chose to use in print! I looked back at our story from our Nov. 9, 1992 issue today, and it's interesting to see how environmental issues that were important to the industry then still are making headlines. It's also interesting to note that Royal was not the event's "headliner." The real big name was Klaus Topfer, then the German minister for the environment and author of his country's package recycling legislation. I quoted Royal just once in our story, on a then-new French law that called for dramatic increases in recycling: "Even if we have to be brutal here, there was a crisis, and we had to deal with the crisis," Royal said. I'm not sure I agree that plastics packaging waste was creating a "crisis" in Europe in the early 1990s. But legislators were behaving that way, and industry responded with a variety of recycling initiatives. Likewise, some cities and states are dealing with plastics waste issues today as if they have a crisis. Unlike then, so far, I have not seen much of a response from the plastics industry.
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