Consider this: Greenpeace announced July 23 that Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are leaving the Plastics Industry Association.
Readers who are used to our frequent stories may not realize it, but the Plastics Industry Association rarely makes national headlines. And this was the most widely reported, and widely misunderstood, coverage that I've seen in many years.
But that didn't scare Tony Radoszewski away from agreeing to become the association's next president and CEO. That is a good sign.
The association announced Radoszewski's hiring on July 31, and he officially becomes president and CEO on Sept. 16.
He's taking over from Patty Long, who has been with the association since 2011. She took over the top job on an interim basis soon after Bill Carteaux died in late 2018, after a three-year fight with leukemia.
Long deserves the industry's thanks. Her stint as interim CEO was about eight months long, but she played a huge role for far longer. Starting when Carteaux was first hospitalized in April 2016, Long has been a public face and voice for plastics.
That said, Radoszewski is replacing Carteaux, a Plastics Hall of Famer credited with saving the NPE trade show and rebranding the association, which was formerly known as the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Carteaux had a big personality, and he was one of the association's strongest CEOs in many years.
Now, with Radoszewski, there's a new leader, perhaps with a new set of goals. We'll know more in a few months, after he gets a chance to meet with members.
He's starting with a strong understanding of the industry and its issues — 40 years of experience, in fact. That includes jobs at Phillips Chemical Co., Advanced Drainage Systems Inc., and 13 years heading the Irving, Texas-based Plastics Pipe Institute.
Many loyal members of the Plastics Industry Association consider plastics industry experience a big plus in the CEO role. I agree. It's not mandatory, but it's helpful, given that the plastics sector faces a unique set of challenges. That starts with negative consumer attitudes about plastic, and environmental issues.
And that brings me back to the Coke and Pepsi news.
Coke and Pepsi are leaving the association over an issue that has nothing to do with the soda business. Environmental groups are using them in an elaborate chess game to get the association to stop pushing preemption legislation.
Environmentalists want cities and counties to be able to ban single-use plastic products like grocery bags, straws and polystyrene takeout containers. It is hard for the industry to fight all those local bans, so the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a self-funded group within the Plastics Industry Association, has been fighting back by getting industry-friendly state legislatures to pass laws making local bans illegal.
Meanwhile, Coke and Pepsi use millions of pounds of PET every year to make plastic bottles. In fact, I could argue that they do far more damage to the plastics industry's reputation by fighting against state bottle deposits than they do as members of the association, making a very tortured and tangential support of preemption laws against bag bans.
When we first heard that the soda giants were leaving, I half-joked that the Plastics Industry Association should have kicked them out instead of waiting for the resignation letters.
But, of course, that would be shortsighted. It's better when all the stakeholders are involved in the discussion. That includes trade groups, resin and machinery suppliers, processors and converters, brand owners and, yes, even environmental groups.
I'm encouraged that Radoszewski says that working with environmental groups and other nongovernmental organizations could be a key part of that advocacy work. He's looking for common ground, and I expect him to be a strong advocate on behalf of plastics.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.