President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Feb. 5 prompted a plastics industry trade group to renew its call for federal spending on recycling infrastructure, as other manufacturing groups echoed the president's call to approve the new version of the NAFTA trade pact.
Plastics-related environmental concerns also popped up, with several members of Congress highlighting water pollution sometimes tied to the industry. A lawmaker from New York, for example, invited a constituent to the speech who has raised concerns around contamination from a local fluoropolymer processing plant.
But it was the president's public comments on infrastructure and manufacturing job growth that drew the attention in industry circles.
A new federal infrastructure program was the first of several items President Trump mentioned as part of an agenda that he described as bipartisan.
"Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure," Trump said. "I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future. This is not an option. This is a necessity."
In response, the Plastics Industry Association in Washington renewed a call it made a year ago, after the 2018 State of the Union speech, for recycling programs to be part of any new federal effort to beef up roads, rails and other infrastructure.
It said in a Feb. 5 statement that the industry "is working to be a part of the infrastructure and recycling solution."
"Bans on some products like straws, are proliferating around the country, but the nation has entered a critical time for investment in a new generation of waste management solutions, especially as China and other countries who have been the primary processors of scrap plastic recycling, make significant policy changes that require the U.S. to make new investments," the association said.
The Vinyl Institute in Washington, as well, said Trump's calls for bipartisan efforts on infrastructure would be good for plastic pipe and building materials.
"The replacement of failing pipes in America's water and wastewater systems is one of the most timely investments our nation can pursue," Chairman Dick Heinle said. "VI is committed to working with Congress and the White House to ensure that water infrastructure funding is a major component of any [infrastructure program]."
In last year's State of the Union, Trump said he favored a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
But this year's address did not specify a dollar amount or discuss how it would be paid for, and some observers have questioned the lack of political action moving it forward in Washington.
The head of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted in response that he hoped for more concrete action, rather than public events, this year.
"I hope to god that 2019 brings fewer infrastructure weeks and MORE infrastructure action," said AAM President Scott Paul. "We must rebuild America."
Jay Timmons, the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the speech pointed out the need for Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the NAFTA trade deal, as well as for Washington to pass legislation to reform the immigration system and invest in infrastructure and workforce training.
Timmons called it a "post-partisan agenda."
"Our industry is coming off the best year for manufacturing job creation in more than two decades, and in 2018 the NAM's Manufacturers' Outlook Survey found the highest level of optimism among manufacturers in the survey's 20-year history," he said, highlighting tax reform and regulatory changes.