With challenges to plastic bags and packaging advancing on many fronts, the industry has to get smarter and tougher in how it responds.
Plastics pros Shari Jackson, Mike Lawrentz and Ron Sherga got that message across during a panel at TEMPI 08.
There are 99 pieces of bag-banning legislation being considered across 19 U.S. states at the state and local levels, said Jackson, director of the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the Arlington, Va.-based American Chemistry Council. To date, only bans in San Francisco and Malibu, Calif., have passed. Of the 99 proposals, 36 have come from California.
California, Illinois and Rhode Island have mandatory bag recycling laws and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are considering similar measures.
Jackson said the industry needs to dispel certain myths surrounding plastic bags, including those that overstate the amount of energy used in their production.
``Plastic bags use 70 percent less energy to produce than paper bags do, and they put out 50 percent less greenhouse gas than paper. We need to correct misinformation and let people know that recycling is the environmentally responsible choice,'' she said.
Lawrentz, an executive with the Textile Bag Packaging Association and president of bag maker Lawgix International of Ashland, Ohio, focused on getting the message out to young consumers.
``Our kids are being indoctrinated with the wrong message about plastic,'' he said. ``There are kids' books showing polar bears drowning and plastic rings around ducks' necks. It's like [Frankenstein author] Mary Shelley put a coloring book together.''
The issue hit home recently for Lawrentz when his adult daughter placed an anti-plastic bag news item in their church bulletin. After he explained the issue to her, she added a pro-recycling item.
He also urged plastics professionals to get involved on a grass-roots basis. ``Don't avoid Earth Day events,'' he said. ``Go and see if you can participate and give a little more balanced view.''
Sherga, who operates consulting firms Sher-Results LLC and Environmental Extended Life LLC in Arlington, Texas, summed up the problem this way: ``Plastics have been asleep at the wheel. There's a global tsunami of anti-consumerism and plastic bag bans are reminder of that. We're at war and [environmentalists] have one thing in mind to put you out of business,'' he said.