Bill Carteaux is more than happy to tell a crowd why the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. matters in today's market.
Speaking at the 2007 Plastics Processors Conference East - an Aug. 28 event sponsored by Chemical Market Associates Inc. in New York - Carteaux told attendees that ``environmentalists and activists aren't going to be happy until they rid the world of all plastic products.''
``They don't have to base anything on sound science; they just have to base it on emotion,'' said Carteaux, who's been president of Washington-based SPI since 2005.
With almost 1,100 members and 16 special-interest groups, SPI represents a U.S. plastics market that had shipments valued at $341 billion in 2005 - ranking third among U.S. industries. U.S. plastics firms employed 1.1 million workers at more than 18,000 facilities in 2005. The market generated $10 billion in new capital spending and had a total economic impact of $457 billion.
Carteaux said SPI currently has a full slate of issues focused on reducing the costs of doing business in the U.S. The organization is working on legislation to expand natural gas exploration and to extend tax credits for research and development. SPI also recently was part of a successful effort to reduce a sales tax on electricity in North Carolina.
Carteaux also cited SPI's recent effort with the Food and Drug Administration that led Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to continue to use PVC in food packaging, since no other material could match PVC's safety performance, he said.
But a lot of work lies ahead. Carteaux pointed out that eight U.S. cities were considering bans on plastics bags in 2006, but that number climbed above 20 by 2007. SPI also is working to point out deficiencies in China's compliance record with the World Trade Organization and will continue to push for that nation to devalue its currency. To date, the yuan has been devalued about 8 percent, but Carteaux said a devaluation of 30-35 percent is needed for the U.S to be more competitive.
``It's important to work as a whole industry, not as pieces and parts,'' Carteaux said. ``Having multiple voices and opinions on what needs to happen confuses lawmakers and stakeholders.
``There are millions of people in the plastic industry, but we don't speak with a unified voice like a group such as Greenpeace does. If we have different voices, lawmakers will tune us out completely.''
The value of U.S. plastics industry shipments increased 12 percent between 2002 and 2005, but employment dropped 10 percent. Overall, the industry had a trade surplus of $3.7 billion in 2006 - an increase of $2 billion from the prior year. Most of that surplus was a result of resin exports, as plastics products ran a deficit of almost $7 billion.