The April 15 fire at a Pinova Inc. chemical plant in Brunswick, Ga., prompted a lot of discussion among the Plastics News editors.
The New York Times and other media described the factory as a "plastics plant," or even more specifically a "plastic resin plant," and reported on the evacuation order as if it's part of a trend of plastics fires. News stories made a connection between the Pinova fire and the fire at My-Way Trading Inc. in Richmond, Ind., as if they were related.
At PN, we were prepared to cover the Pinova fire. But then we took a closer look and realized that calling the Brunswick factory a plastics plant is a pretty big stretch. Pinova uses pine tree waste to make chemicals and additives used in a wide variety of applications, including adhesives, tires, chewing gum — and plastics.
I understand the media wants to explain business and technology stories in language that the public can understand. Perhaps local officials call the factory a plastics plant. Maybe seeing "plastics" mentioned as an end market for Pinova's plant-based polyterpine resins, rosins and additives was just a shortcut to make the story relatable.
I suspect it also fit into a narrative that plastics are hazardous and flammable, which is easy to do after the East Palestine rail accident and the Richmond fire. It's an adage in the newspaper world: Three stories about similar topics makes it a trend.
We're more careful and more precise. For example, in our stories about the My-Way Trading fire, we haven't called it a plastics recycling plant. Warehouses that store plastic waste aren't recycling plants. It's a fine point, but important for many PN readers.
Finally, I encourage you to read Robert Render's Perspective column on the right way for plastics recyclers to work with local fire and emergency responders. Render has decades of experience in plastics recycling — you may recall that his company used to recycle all the scrap plastic from NPE, back when the shows were in Chicago's McCormick Place.
On the Richmond fire, Render says he is "quite angry about this fire and the black mark it placed on plastics recycling, plastics operations and the entire industry," and he offers solid suggestions for ways to improve.