Our editorial agenda is more than the foundation for our weekly opinion columns. It offers a blueprint for a prosperous and sustainable plastics industry. With the start of a new year, Plastics News updates and restates its editorial agenda.
• Safety must be every company's top priority. That includes keeping workers safe and making products that consumers can use with confidence. Processors, suppliers, workers and regulators must work together to make the plastics industry a leader in worker and community safety.
Likewise, consumers, regulators and legislators have a responsibility to deal with plastics-related issues without bias. Bans and taxes that encourage replacing plastic products with less-sustainable alternative materials must be discouraged.
• For too long, plastics have suffered from an image problem. The industry must combat misinformation by highlighting the benefits of plastics.
• Sustainability is a priority. Profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive concepts — true sustainability will result in long-term health for the plastics industry. Companies should consider sustainability when making decisions about resource utilization, including material selection and energy use.
• Recycling must be encouraged. Americans have become too comfortable in their habit of throwing away used plastics items. Products should be designed to take into account recycling, source reduction, health and pollution issues. Where practical, single-use plastics should be recycled, incinerated for energy or at the very least landfilled — not become litter or marine debris.
The industry should support state and national bottle bills, since bottle-deposit programs have proved effective in collecting a clean, valuable recycling stream.
• Companies and their leaders should take an active role in their communities and in trade groups. Local officials need to be aware of the plastics industry's size and importance, so they know that plastics are a significant employer and contributor to the local, national and global economies.
• The industry should speak with a unified voice. This requires cooperation at all levels of the leading trade associations, as well as international and regional groups, and with business, consumer and environmental organizations.
• The free market is the best mechanism for raising the standard of living, encouraging democracy and rewarding hard work. Free trade encourages efficiency and inspires stability around the world. Government tax policies should motivate entrepreneurs and investors, help industry compete globally and strive for fairness.
• All sectors of the plastics industry must recruit and retain talented workers. Having a well trained and flexible workforce is a competitive advantage, so employers should support education and training. Employers also should strive for diversity in management.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.