Pittsburgh — Consultant Mike Urquhart said the plastics industry needs to talk more about how its technology makes the industry greener.
"There are these solutions that can come up that are good news stories about what's going on in plastics. And most of it goes through new technological innovation. Not by banning straws," Urquhart said at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Blow Molding Conference.
Environmentalists slam plastics for polluting the oceans, but the public may not understand that most ocean plastics come from Asian countries like China and Indonesia, which lack good waste-handling infrastructure, he said.
Urquhart, a consultant from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and former sales executive for packaging at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., said it makes sense for the plastics industry to help developing countries improve waste collection infrastructure problems.
"We can help fix it, but banning straws from Starbucks in Nebraska ain't gonna solve this problem," he said.
The plastics packaging sector has made big strides in recycling and weight reduction, he said, and all-electric blow molding machines that cut energy use mean plastics have a smaller carbon footprint, he said.
"That means the energy to make every bottle keeps going down. That's progress," Urquhart said.
Plastics recycling is good, but the packaging material does not have to back into a bottle, he said, "as long as it's not going into the ocean or into the waste stream."