With environmental issues topping its agenda, the Plastics Industry Association returned June 7 for its first executive lobbying day in Washington since the pandemic started.
Like many events during COVID-19, this one went virtual. Executives from 45 plastics firms joined 65 video calls with lawmakers and their staffs to make the case for their political priorities.
The association's meetings were "focused primarily on sustainability issues," said Matt Seaholm, vice president of government affairs. "We're really encouraging our members to tell their story."
A talking points memo prepared by the group and shared with Plastics News centered on recycling and plastics waste legislation the association either supports or opposes in Washington.
Beyond the immediate political concerns, though, Seaholm said the industry wanted to remind lawmakers of the role plastics firms played in the pandemic, as companies switched production lines to make personal protective equipment and supply other industries with critical materials.
"They get a chance to tell their member of Congress, 'Here's what we did: We turned this line into this to be able to make PPE,'" Seaholm said. "The headline, I think, for a lot of these conversations was 'This was an essential industry through this pandemic.'"
As well, workforce concerns were discussed repeatedly in often unscripted ways during the meetings with senators, representatives and their staffs, Seaholm said.
"It's come up in the majority of meetings that I've been part of, and I know for my colleagues as well," he said. "It's an issue across the board for these companies to try to find a qualified, capable workforce."
The association's meetings started June 7 and were scheduled to wrap up the week of June 14. For much of the past decade, the industry has held annual fly-ins to press its concerns face to face in the capital, although last year's was canceled in the early days of the pandemic.