Clearwater Beach, Fla. — Amcor Rigid Plastic President Eric Roegner has become known for his colorful promotion of the PET bottle and plastics.
The head of the $3.5 billion rigid packaging portion of Amcor plc, believes it's time for those in plastics to go on the offensive.
And his full-throated message was on display at the recent Plastics News Executive Forum in Clearwater Beach.
"We're under attack. We've been under attack. We have to stop playing defense. It's time to start playing offense. The good news today is there are many more tools in our toolkit today that we can use than we've had before. So it's time for us to get up and get active and play our part," he said.
The discussion these days is full of anti-plastics voices that are taking it to the industry, he said. "This story will not tell itself. We have to be the ones to tell it because no one else will."
"Perception is real and we have to go after the hearts and minds of people," Roegner said. "The facts are on our side, but we are under attack. … The only way to counteract that is to get off our rear ends."
Society's relationship with plastics has never been more complicated. While there is a significant and growing voice against plastics, and single-use plastics specifically, there has never been more of a dependence on the material than there is now. This collision creates waves in the public dialogue as pro-plastics people, those against the material, and even people who are staked out somewhere in between fight to have their voices heard. This comes as regulators and lawmakers have never been more focused on plastics as they are now.
Plastics is coming under increasing scrutiny due to its lower recycling rate compared to metal, paper and even glass. Plastics pollution also plays a big part in the battle over public opinion.
Roegner is a former aluminum industry employee, having spent 12 years with Alcoa, and he revels in bashing his old material. He does not say nice things about glass either. But he does give the aluminum industry credit for sharpening and honing its message about recyclability.
Plastics, he told the pro-polymer crowd, needs to do the same.
"What we have to do now is go on offense. Because the poor consumers, not only our customers, but the end consumers are getting confused. And if we don't step up to provide fact-based education to them, other voices will fill that void and it's not going to help us out very much at all," Roegner said.
The plastics executive believes facts are on his side when making the argument for PET.
"What is eminently clear to me is this is not a fact-based discussion. It's emotional, and it's full of zealots who will do and say anything to make their point," Roegner claimed. "And that's dangerous because the end consumer will not know. They are going to see what they see and hear what they hear. And it's our job to make sure that they get the facts."
"It's going to be up to us. We're the ones that are going to have to get out there and start communicating," he said.