To meet challenges created by increased public debate over the role of plastics in the environment, the American Chemistry Council is reorganizing its plastics activities and adding a new group to strengthen its public outreach and sustainability efforts.
The plastics division of ACC is now the plastics department of ACC. The department will be hiring five people, including a senior director, for a newly created sustainability and public outreach group within the department, said Steve Russell, vice president of the plastics department.
Because of the allocation of resources to the new group, three people were let go, he said. Russell emphasized that the layoffs were not performance-related, but reflected a need to emphasize new priorities.
Sources said two of the three people who lost their jobs were senior technology director Pete Dinger and Judith Dunbar, director of environmental technical issues for packaging and consumer products.
In addition, Sharon Kneiss, who had been vice president of the products division since 2006, resigned two weeks ago, said Russell, who declined to confirm the departures of Dinger and Dunbar.
Kneiss had managed ACC's chlorine chemistry division, the chemical products and technology division, and the products division. Kneiss could not be reached for comment.
Russell said the plastics division had reported to Kneiss. The new plastics department will be reporting to ACC President Cal Dooley.
We are an advocacy-based organization that defends plastics, but it has become increasingly apparent that we need to promote plastic products with the same vigor that we defend plastic products, Russell said in an Aug. 12 phone interview.
We looked at the nature and frequency of the challenges we were experiencing from policy makers, consumers, and brand owners and wanted to make sure we had the most effective structure for dealing with them, he said.
As part of the restructuring, Russell was promoted from managing director of the plastics division to vice president of the plastics department, and Keith Christman was promoted from senior director of packaging to senior director of market advocacy.
In addition to his new responsibilities, Christman will continue to oversee the packaging team, as well as the automotive, building and construction, and electronic sectors. Christman also will manage the industry statistics program.
Russell was quick to add that all six self-funded product groups within the plastics department would remain intact the Progressive Bag Affiliates, the Plastics Food Service Packaging Group, the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, the Rigid Plastic Packaging Group, the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry and the Expanded Polystyrene Resin Suppliers Group.
These changes will not affect any of those groups, Russell said. We wanted to build greater in-house capabilities for public outreach, consumer education and sustainability, and de-emphasize our capabilities around inward-facing technical support work.
He said the department will use outside experts, on an as-needed basis, to provide the internal technical support it is eliminating.
Russell said the new sustainability and public outreach group will create partnerships to expand recycling, focus on end-of-life issues, identify and promote how plastic products contribute to energy efficiency and energy recovery, and tout the benefits plastic products bring to everyday life.
The new group also will manage the plastic recycling programs developed in partnership with the state of California, work on litter abatement and be responsible for the department's joint efforts with Keep America Beautiful of Stamford, Conn.
They will work on the things that drive public perception, Russell said.
We are most successful when we define what the plastics industry stands for, rather than letting others define it, he said. We want to create programs and messages for consumers, the media, the general public and policy makers.
The structure and skills we are putting into place are designed to respond to the kinds of challenges the industry is now facing, Russell said.
The change will give the department greater in-house capabilities that will allow us to participate better in the discussions about sustainability, recycling and other public policy issues.
In June, Arlington, Va.-based ACC launched an image-boosting campaign for plastics that focuses on how plastic product and market innovations benefit society, how plastics help to improve energy efficiency and how plastics can provide sustainable solutions for the environment.
These are challenging times for all parts of this industry, Russell said.
We need to work with others in the plastics industry to develop partnerships, he said, pointing to how ACC and the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. are partnering on a plastic ambassadors program and sharing research on separate industry image campaigns targeted at different audiences.
It is imperative that we work together and share each other's resources in order to be more effective, he said.
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