(May 16, 2008) — The mounting concern expressed in your columns about recent attacks on plastics, notably the wildly inaccurate charges against bisphenol A, is totally justified. Don Loepp, Plastics News managing editor, Bill Carteaux, Society of the Plastics Industry president and chief executive officer, and, most recently, Serge Lavoie, president and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, all deserve our thanks for their thoughtful comments and suggestions, as does reader Allan Griff.
It is not new, of course, for plastics to be attacked. What does seem to be new is the intensity and coordination of these attacks and their deliberate targeting of retailers.
Perhaps the greatest danger is the apparent strategy of the activist groups to bypass the very government agencies — such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission — that have the official responsibility and the scientific capability to make sound judgments to protect the public's health and safety. By seeking to undermine their authority, activists do a grave disservice to the American public.
By contrast, industry has worked closely with the regulatory agencies over many years and has invested many millions of dollars in the highest-quality studies to clarify the often complex science involved in assessing risk.
To be done well, these studies take time, but it is wrong to suggest that the health of the public is thereby at risk. If any risk were identified, we know from experience that the agencies — and industry — would take immediate action. The high standards of our regulatory agencies are the envy of the world. As far as our industry's various trade groups are concerned, we clearly must do a better job of coordination, information sharing and outreach. We have too many institutional silos.
Sadly, we must expect a continuation of these attacks, since the activists — using guerrilla tactics with complete disregard for the truth — have in essence usurped the role of our nation's regulators. No product can be considered immune.
What we all can and must do is make a greater effort to work together to better prepare for these activist tactics — and communicate better with our key audiences, including our customers, the media and the public.
We must now add the big retailers to that list. We need to help them understand that it is grossly unfair to their shareholders, as well as their customers and suppliers, when they abruptly remove perfectly good products from their shelves for no reason other than fear of bullying by activist groups.
The plastics industry's trade groups need to cooperate in getting this message across. The activists have taught us all an important lesson in targeting, timing, coordination and effectiveness. It would be perilous to ignore it.
Donald K. Duncan
Society of the Plastics Industry