The two major trade associations that represent plastics companies are joining forces to galvanize their members to speak out on recycling, the benefits of plastics and legislative issues.
Specifically, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council will work together to train companies and their employees to be plastic ambassadors that can speak effectively to legislators and community and school groups.
The project brings together two trade associations that had a public falling out nearly a decade ago, but that more recently have had a cordial relationship.
``I don't think any of the history means a damned thing,'' said Bill Carteaux, president and chief executive officer of SPI, in reference to the events eight years ago that led to resin producers forming the American Plastics Council, which is now the plastics division of ACC.
``We need to have a unified front against the united attacks,'' Carteaux said. ``The history is irrelevant to what's happening now. The industry is under attack and we have to attack together. By working hand-in-hand, we can make our strengths collectively stronger.''
Steve Russell, managing director of the plastics division of ACC, echoed the view.
``Bill and I are personally committed to advancing the industry together. We believe in looking forward, not backward. The challenges are far too great to be distracted,'' Russell said. ``Where there are advocacy challenges, we need to communicate the benefits and sustainability of our products and our industry.''
The project formalizes what the two associations have done individually in battling product bans and health concerns about their products. It will start with pilot efforts in three states California, Illinois and Texas before a formal rollout of the ambassador program at NPE 2009 in Chicago in June.
The partnership has been in the making four to six months, they said.
``We have to make sure that we have great spokespersons well-trained when these issues come up,'' whether they are senior executives or any of the 1.1 million employees at U.S. plastics companies, Russell said.
``The way we envision it, we are going to provide employees with the kind of messages, the data and the talking points to effectively communicate with different groups'' about topics including recycling, marine debris, or proposed legislative initiatives, he said.
``The beauty of this kind of program is that once we have an army of trained ambassadors, we will be able to have folks on the ground that are well-versed,'' Russell said. ``You will have home-grown spokespersons in the community ready to answer questions'' that will complement the efforts and work of the two groups.
The training will rely on information that ACC and SPI have developed on sustainability and life-cycle analysis of plastics.
For the balance of 2008, ACC has committed $250,000 to get the program up and running, Russell said. SPI will be involved through ``sweat equity,'' staff time and participation by its membership base, which Russell called ``an incredible in-kind contribution'' that provides real value.
``We have 70,000 members that we can recruit as participants and ambassadors,'' Carteaux said.
``The key is finding new ways to build on the strengths of ACC and SPI as we work together,'' Carteaux said. ``We are both committed to bringing our industry together and utilizing our strengths together.
``The plastics industry is under attack on all fronts,'' he said. ``We need to mobilize our workforce to tell our story and preserve our industry because plastics are the key to a sustainable future and to our national economy.''