The plastics industry is moving the major responsibility for warding off local efforts to ban or tax plastic bags from the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council to the industry's main plastics association, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
At the same time, ACC is creating a new Flexible Film Recycling Group within its plastics division whose focus will be to try to improve the recycling rate of plastic film. That new group is expected to consist of resin suppliers, converters, brand owners and other value-chain partners who use and/or recover flexible film packaging, according to ACC.
“The recycling rate for film drives the advocacy challenge we face,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC. The new flexible film recycling group will “focus on raising recycling rates for plastic film by overcoming barriers and strengthening partnerships throughout the value chain,” he said.
Russell spoke in a joint phone interview with SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux.
As part of the shift in responsibility between the two associations, the ACC's Progressive Bag Affiliates unit — which has had the lead industry association role in warding off plastic bag bans — will shift to SPI on Jan. 1, and be renamed the American Progressive Bag Alliance.
PBA currently has seven members including Hilex Poly Co. LLC in Hartsville, S.C. — which has been in the forefront of fighting plastic bag bans — Superbag Corp., Advance Polybag Inc. and Unistar Plastics LLC.
More than 30 communities across the U.S. have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, supermarkets and retailers. More than two dozen communities — including large cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Texas, and Eugene, Ore. — are currently looking to ban plastic bags.
“ACC and SPI have been working together over the last two years on how to be as efficient as possible and maximize the collective resources of this industry,” said Russell. “That is how this shift emerged.”
That informal cooperation between the two associations was formalized in July when SPI, ACC and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association formed the North American Plastics Alliance to better coordinate the plastics industry's efforts.
The notion of shifting the responsibilities for the two issues began shortly after NAPA was formed, Russell said.
Carteaux said there would be a number of synergies between SPI's existing Flexible Film and Bag Division — which represents more than three dozen companies involved in the manufacturer of plastic film products such as bags, wraps and liners — and PBA.
He said several current PBA members are already members of SPI and that “the plan is for the remaining PBA members to become members of SPI.”
There won't be any shift in personnel as part of the changes. Carteaux said he and Jon Kurrle, SPI senior vice president of government and industry affairs, “would be actively engaged” in leading the group at the onset, with the help of a staff of 14 at SPI that are already involved in advocacy. Carteaux also said SPI would be using some consultants initially and adding staff to support APBA.
Shari Jackson, who currently heads PBA, will stay at ACC and support its new Flexible Film Recycling Group, which will start in early 2012.