Plastics is an extremely diverse industry, with companies using several different business models to successfully sell a wide variety of products to hundreds of different sectors and customer bases. But it's important to remember that, when it comes to how consumers and policymakers treat, regulate and think of plastics, we're all on the same team.
So it's sad to see that some companies in our industry can't recognize the harm they do when they traffic in scientific misinformation to gain a competitive edge over other members of their industry. Competition and business rivalries are as old as capitalism, and often they're what drive our companies to innovate and become stronger, ultimately pushing our entire industry forward. But when those competitions and rivalries devolve into companies using baseless, unscientific claims to scare up sales then everybody loses.
Instead of capitalizing on consumer confusion in the hopes of increasing their market share, plastics companies throughout the supply chain should be working together to address the threats facing their industry, the most notable of which is the wave of anti-plastics sentiment being stoked by anti-plastics advocates after successfully banning plastic bags in California.
But plastic bags are only the beginning. Just after California's ban was signed into law, anti-plastics groups were already hailing the bill as “a good start” and regrouping to target new materials and plastic products for regulation. At a time like this, when plastics face such a serious threat, our industry can't afford to give into environmental, health and safety misinformation in the hopes that doing so will give one company a boost in sales. Companies that do use unscientific claims to promote their products gain only a temporary benefit while doing a lasting disservice to their industry.
While a tide of anti-plastics sentiment threatens all of us, it's a challenge that can be overcome if the plastics industry presents a unified front, focused on innovation and supported by the facts. Flirting with misinformation and capitalizing on public confusion might yield some temporary benefits, but in the end you're only hurting yourself and your teammates.
William Carteaux is president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington.