The American Chemistry Council has hired Mitzi Emrich, a former conservation associate for the Sierra Club, as director of the Progressive Bag Affiliates.
PBA is part of the plastics division of Arlington, Va.-based ACC. It was formed last month to replace the now-defunct Progressive Bag Alliance. The new PBA represents companies that account for 90 percent of plastic bag production in the United States, plus the majority of U.S. polyethylene producers, said Keith Christman, senior director of packaging for ACC's plastics division.
``She has a good strong, knowledge of environmental issues,'' Christman said in a Feb. 12 telephone interview, the day after Emrich's appointment was announced. Emrich has not worked in the plastics industry before, he said. ACC declined to make Emrich available for an interview.
While at the Sierra Club, Emrich lobbied against federal policies that opened the door to more logging by timber companies.
Most recently, Emrich served as a managing director and senior project manager with Saint Consulting Group in New York. She has 10 years of experience in leading campaigns at the local, state and federal level.
``She has lot of public policy and issues management experience and has done a lot of work at the local level, where many of the plastic bag initiatives occur,'' Christman said.
Saint Consulting is a management consulting firm that represents companies in zoning and land-use disputes. The firm develops campaigns aimed at politicians, community groups, the media and special interest groups. It also organizes grass-roots coalitions designed to neutralize local opposition to the projects it supports, orchestrates public events and implements damage-control strategies.
The plastics bag industry has been the target of activists and subject to numerous proposed legislative bans in the U.S. and other countries. A plastics bag ban at supermarkets with more than 10,000 square feet went into effect in San Francisco on Nov. 20.
A similar law went into effect in Oakland on Jan. 18, but enforcement has been delayed pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court that challenges the ban's legality. A ruling is expected the week of Feb. 18.
In addition, Los Angeles County earlier this month set plastic bag recycling targets of 30 percent by 2010 and 65 percent by 2013, if the industry wants to avoid a ban. Similarly, California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has proposed to amend a state law that mandates in-store recycling at large supermarkets and pharmacies to prevent stores from distributing plastic carryout bags unless they reduce and recycle the amount of plastic bags by 35 percent by the end of 2010, and 70 percent by the end of 2012.
ACC has a $2.5 million campaign in California to educate people about the value of recycling plastic bags, and is providing money for state agencies to purchase recycling bins for state beaches. More than 400 have been purchased to date since the initiative was launched in early November.
Christman said the first meeting of a task force on marine debris organized by ACC and others would take place near the end of February. It originally had been scheduled for January.
He did not indicate what other plastic bag recycling or marine debris initiatives ACC might choose to undertake.