Anaheim, Calif. — As a $418 billion industry that supports 954,000 jobs, the plastics industry is a major contributor to the U.S economy, but for some key decision makers — let alone the public — those numbers just don't hit home.
The Plastics Industry Association is out to change that starting with a video that humanizes the power of plastics.
Make that #PowerofPlastics.
The 80-year-old trade group showed members a 48-second video at the UBM Advanced Manufacturing expo in Anaheim that highlights not only plastics contribution to the economy but to one little girl. She is laughing as her dad pushes her on a backyard swing. It's a moment made possible by a life-saving synthetic heart valve that she received.
Will it help swing opinions that plastics are bad?
Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Washington-based association, said it's a good start and a teaser of things to come in 2018. For now, this video is aimed at the group's 1,000 members and the state and federal officials whose decisions affect the industry, Carteaux said, but it's just the beginning.
“We've not been able to win the battle with plastics having such a negative perception,” he told Plastics News. “We've been trying to do it with fact and science but emotion plays. That's why we've gone down this route. We believe if we get that emotional connection — as opposed to just talking about the things we make — and we say it saved this little girl's life, that's really what it's about. It's kind of teaser from that standpoint.”
The video follows a number of branding changes made in December for the association known for decades as the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Carteaux joked that by the time he explained who he represented, the meeting would be over.
The association has also updated it website and swapped its mission for an “about us” that includes the video.
“We believe in innovating to make a difference in the world,” the video says. “We believe in creating connections that empower our collective voice. We believe in sustainable practices and sustainable business growth. We're an organization with an accomplished past and a promising future.”
An advocate for the association for 13 years, Carteaux said the industry has helped advance the medical, automotive, construction and consumer markets but its reputation hasn't improved.
“I do think it's worse,” he said. “We had a campaign back in the ‘90s and early 2000s called Plastics make it Possible. The industry was spending $20 [million] to $25 million a year on that but what we have to remember is the internet wasn't there either. We had three or four major TV channels and some good newspapers and we did a lot of traditional media about how plastics contribute to everyday life. When the internet started, all bets were off.”
The positive role of plastics has been overshadowed in recent years by social media. Scroll through Facebook and Twitter and you see online campaigns about banning microbeads, cleaning up the oceans' garbage patches, and forgoing plastic shopping bags getting lots of likes, shares and critical commentary.
Plastics get beat up online and in the press daily, Carteaux said.
“There's so much false news out there about the industry,” he said. “We had been trying to battle it with science and fact because we're business people. We need to battle it with emotion.”
In remission after a battle with cancer, Carteaux speaks from personal experience as well as industry pride.
“From the day I was told I had leukemia I started to document how plastics was going to save my life. I have video, tons of pictures,” he said.
Carteaux is encouraging plastics association members as well as those in the Council of Manufacturing Associations that he chairs to think along similar lines.
“My goal is to make all of us be storytellers,” he said. “Make the connections that if it wasn't for manufacturing as a whole we wouldn't be able to do the things we do.”
Follow conversations about the video on the association's YouTube channel and by using #PowerofPlastics on social media.