The Plastics Industry Association (PIA) is 2.5 miles close to the U.S. House, home of Steny Hoyer, second ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives behind Nancy Pelosi. Hoyer is a two-time House Majority Leader. He is dean of the Maryland Congressional delegation. He ought to be influential in Maryland as well as national public policy setting.
PIA is only 31.5 miles distant to the Maryland House of Delegates, in which Hoyer likely has some friends.
For five years, 2002 to 2007, Scott DeFife, PIA's vice president of government affairs, was a senior policy adviser to Hoyer.
On March 12, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that will, when signed by the governor, ban the sale of food packaging made of polystyrene foam, EPS, popularly (well, not so popularly) referred to as Styrofoam. Also banned is the sale of food in foam cups, plates or egg cartons.
This state-legislative earthquake is the making of a national copycat tsunami, in the same fashion as did McDonald's trashing of its EPS clamshells, announced on Nov. 1, 1990.
This new event should not have been "breaking news" to the plastics industry. PIA should have been screaming about this threat as it was developing, with the hope that the industry (and its "dear" partners) would and could have brought reason, science and facts to Maryland's delegates who were claiming, for example, "It cannot be recycled. It doesn't break down. It doesn't biodegrade," as unknowingly cried by Maryland Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D).
Week by week, month by month, quarter by quarter, year by year ... gads, decade by decade ... plastics are being banned, taxed and regulated out of the market, all the while the enviro-NGOs, news media and "educators" encourage the spread of plastics-ignorance. All the same while, Plastics (PIA) is supposed to be establishing (as it says on its website) a "better industry" and a "better world," and doing so thus: "Together, we're shaping the future of the industry. Be a part of a better industry and a better world. Be a member of the Plastics Industry Association." (Right — sign me up!)
A "$500 million federal push for domestic recycling" is not going to solve this industry's and food safety's problems. And no one should doubt the seriousness of the industry's commitment to "the environment" (especially someone on PIA staff).
This is not just DeFife's failure; there's a Long involvement of misguidance, as well. How and by whom are PIA's public policy positions developed, espoused and supported? Are they plastics firms that live (and die) by the market, or association staff who only hear about it? There's always been a counterproductive dichotomy in tenure and career interest between SPI/PIA board members (who serve just a short time) and staff members (for whom career longevity and benefits are not based on the vitality of the industry but on Washington's go-along-get-along association management incestuous dealings). As EPS food packaging continues to dwindle and its producers increasingly reduce their personnel, where is the stake in this issue for PIA personnel?
George Makrauer is the CEO of ComAd Management Group.