As communities across the country work to defeat COVID-19, essential employees in the plastics industry are making great sacrifices to manufacture the personal protective equipment we all need to stave off the virus.
As CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, I'm proud to represent plastics companies and their employees. Many of our members quickly transfigured supply chains and production lines to meet demand for face shields, masks, surgical gowns, gloves, food and medical packaging. Americans today are rediscovering the value of plastic: versatile, sanitary and affordable.
That's great news. For too long, activists' crusade to ban plastic has obscured this modern material's many benefits to health care, energy, transportation, construction, electronics and other economic sectors. A half-trillion-dollar global industry, plastic supports nearly 1 million employees in the U.S. Stories of their charity, dedication and ingenuity are numerous.
In Pennsylvania, employees at a Braskem plant lived there for 28 days to make raw materials for PPE. In Tennessee, Eastman employees donated material to colleges and universities across the state, where engineers are using 3D printing technology to manufacture face shields for medical personnel.
Placon worked with engineers at the University of Wisconsin to adapt assembly lines and manufacture up to 5,000 face shields per hour for hospitals. Berry Global supplied free face shields to its Evansville, Ind., community. Across the country, Amcor has donated thousands of bottles to distillers producing hand sanitizer.
Ironically, activists' attacks on plastic have increased, as more people understand its lifesaving properties and sacrifices of employees like those at Braskem. Public health officials have deemed these hardworking men and women essential to the fight against coronavirus and recommend everything from plastic face masks to disposable utensils to help Americans protect themselves.
For businesses and consumers, plastic is truly indispensable to our health, as well as to conservation. Lightweight, plastic saves time and money, especially for busy moms and dads. It preserves food and medicine, preventing waste. Its low carbon footprint and durability, compared to metal or concrete, has made plastic piping the system of choice for municipal water projects and fuel delivery.
Our industry has dedicated enormous resources to enhance plastic's recyclability and sustainability. However, rather than seek agreement, some extreme groups simply seek to ban plastic. That misguided idea would reverse decades of technological progress, harm U.S. economic growth and jobs as the nation recovers from COVID-19 and impair our ability to combat infectious disease. Fortunately, moderate voices are prevailing.
Bipartisan members of Congress, responding to public support for recycling and demand for recycled products, support the Recover Act, which would improve nationwide collection services and sorting infrastructure, increasing recycling rates of paper, glass and aluminum, in addition to plastic. Recycling is a public waste service like any other. Tens of thousands of jobs depend on it.
Demonstrating the same innovation Plastics Industry Association members have demonstrated throughout the current health crisis, companies like Purecycle Technologies and Accredo Packaging are using 100 percent recycled material and bioplastics to create containers that are more sustainable, fully recyclable and compostable.
Our members are funding scientific research, recycling projects and nonprofit organizations cleaning up the environment. If only our most strident critics would channel their passion towards greater cooperation, as many environmental groups already do, we could achieve even greater progress.
After the pandemic passes, Americans' preference for safe, sanitary plastic will endure, and the plastics industry will be there to supply the products they need. And as our country rises again from difficult times, the plastics industry will be as critical to economic growth and job creation as it is to public health.