The American Chemistry Council is launching a 17-month, $2.5 million public education campaign in California in response to a growing number of anti-plastics legislative initiatives and intensified public discussion about the environmental effects of plastics.
The Washington-based trade group also plans to buy more recycling bins for beaches and develop partnerships to address litter and marine debris.
``The issues of litter and marine debris demand that we get serious about the problem,'' said Steve Russell, managing director of ACC's plastics division. ``Far too many recyclable plastic bottles and bags are ending up as waste. We need to protect the environment for future generations.''
The launch of the California campaign comes just eight days after ACC extended for a third year its $20 million essential2 chemistry TV ad campaign with two new 30-second spots, one of which has a strong plastics focus.
``In the California campaign, we are focusing our attention on three areas - litter, marine debris and recycling, and demonstrating our commitment to increasing the opportunities for recycling materials,'' Russell said in a Nov. 1 interview at ACC headquarters.
``One important aspect of gaining the public trust is listening to the public,'' he said.
In public opinion research polls conducted for ACC, protecting the environment emerged as the top concern of Californians - ahead of jobs, the economy and illegal immigration, Russell said.
``We have heard their concerns and we are putting the programs in place to address them,'' he said.
The campaign will include:
* A $2.5 million radio, bus stop and billboard public education campaign.
* More than 200 recycling bins for beaches.
* A partnership with, and a $300,000 contribution for 2007 and 2008 to, the nonprofit group Keep Los Angeles Beautiful, to help develop innovative approaches to litter abatement.
* A $100,000 donation to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach to develop a permanent exhibit aimed at educating young people on the importance of their role in recycling and proper disposal of waste.
* A research partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego to sample plastic pollution at the north Pacific Ocean gyre.
* A workshop in La Jolla, Calif., from Nov 28-29 that will bring together 50-60 public organizations, legislators, city officials, scientists and experts from nongovernment organizations to discuss solutions to marine debris.
Russell said the message of the California campaign, which began quietly Nov. 1, will be repeated in radio ads in Spanish and English, on billboards, signs at entrances to state parks and recycling bins at beaches.
The message: ``Plastics. Too valuable to waste. Recycle.''
The group already has bought its first 45 recycling bins, which were placed on San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles county beaches on Nov. 1. The next site to receive bins is Huntington Beach. ACC is funding the purchase for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
``Previously, there have been no plastics recycling opportunities on the beaches'' in California, Russell said. ``There are 320 miles of state park beaches in California with more than 76 million visitors per year.''
The bins are designed to collect plastic bottles, cups, food packaging containers and plastic bags. ``Everything put into the bins will be sorted for recycling,'' he said.
Russell expects ACC will provide more funding for more recycling bins after it evaluates the initial results.
The radio ads, in addition to encouraging people to recycle, will emphasize how much plastics touch people's lives, Russell said, even in everyday items like alarm clocks, coffee makers and shower heads.
``The ads remind people of the value of plastics and to recycle plastic products when they are finished with them,'' he said.
With regard to marine litter, ACC's goal is to bring leaders from government, academia, industry and nongovernment organizations together to develop solutions. ACC is sponsoring research - currently being conducted at sea by NOAA and Scripps Institute - on sampling techniques to help accurately assess the volume of the plastics debris in the gyre and the Pacific Ocean.
It is also holding a workshop, in conjunction with the Scripps Institute, to discuss current research, the sources of marine debris, both land- and marine-based, and possible solutions. Participants committed to attend include NOAA, the Coast Guard, both the U.S. and California EPA, the Ocean Conservancy and the Ocean Futures Society.
Russell emphasized that this is the first phase of ACC's efforts: ``This is just the beginning of a sustainable, multiyear effort in California.''
He said ACC intends to replicate the work in California in other cities and states where it is needed and where it can form similar partnerships.
``We are not trying to change the hearts and minds of people,'' Russell said. Public opinion research conducted for ACC found that people ``like the value of their plastic products, but want to be guilt-free in their use of them.''