(April 11, 2008) — I wish to compliment the Society of the Plastics Industry and Bill Carteaux for being gracious and showing foresight beyond SPI's own national base, to offer to have a full-time secretary for the Council of International Plastics Association Directors, known as CIPAD.
This can help the plastic industry associations in all parts of the world respond factually to attacks on the industry by pressure groups. Several of these attacks are made by misinformation or myths, but get media support, as they make good headlines.
In the last 10 years, groups claiming to protect our earth and the health of citizens scare lay people with unsubstantiated reports and opinions, allegations of dangers and risks caused by the use of plastics. It concerns us because today, plastics serve diverse segments of society and industry in almost every country, developed, developing or even underdeveloped, and we should not allow misinformation to spread.
The global plastics industry, by my estimate, processes almost 230 million tons of polymers annually. That would translate into goods worth at least $450 billion to $500 billion.
I do not think we as an industry group are spending even 1 percent of that amount to educate our users or talk about the positive role of plastics.
While most of the research into new applications originate from the West, globalization and fast information transfer mean newer plastic products are finding use even in the least-developed countries for economic, technical and environmental reasons.
However, while the West has technical data; independent, reputable institutions; and scientific backup to respond to scare-mongering by pressure groups, many associations in the East find it difficult to offer timely explanations or rebuttals, or to offer ideas to address waste-disposal challenges.
That hurdle is resulting in calls for bans, levies or even boycotts of plastics by major users that want to be seen as responsive to consumers (e.g. Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, McDonald's, Whole Foods, Tesco, etc.).
When there are thousands of valuable products that the plastics industry offers to society that help protect human health, save resources, conserve energy, cut pollution and help technological advancement and productivity, it is time all countries join hands and draw information from a common body.
CIPAD, with a full-time secretary, could be a storehouse for data, and now could try roping in another 50 or 100 countries as well to ensure that the value of this great material is also recognized and appreciated, and the negative image is wiped out soon by more interaction amongst all national plastic associations.
Editor's note: The writer is responding to the online version of this story posted April 9 on PlasticsNews.com.