Plastics are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. They're used to make essential components in ventilators, test kits and personal protection equipment.
Retailers that need to stay open are now using plastic shields to protect workers from infection.
Many plastics companies are proud to say that the government considers them "essential" businesses, authorizing them to keep running even in states with shelter-in-place orders.
I've also seen some fantastic projects, spearheaded by plastics processors, to augment the overwhelmed medical products supply chain.
The world is in bad shape right now, but plastics are helping make things better. In fact, they're essential tools in the battle.
But there's just one blemish: the renewed battle over single-use plastics.
Plastics industry people are quick to point out that plastics are essential to modern medical care. For the most part, that argument is uncontested. No one seriously believes that we should ban plastics from hospitals.
COVID-19 is a reminder that there is also a time and a place for single-use plastic packaging and foodservice products. Just like when there's a natural disaster and people are thankful for bottled water, plastics packaging saves lives.
In the past few days, we've seen states and cities roll back bans on single-use plastics. These have been common sense measures to protect retail workers from handling consumers' reusable bags and to help restaurants stay in business by selling takeout meals.
But the moves have sparked a new debate. First, the Plastics Industry Association asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make a public statement in support of single-use plastics and to speak out against bans.
When environmental groups discovered the effort, they accused the industry of trying to cash in on the pandemic.
Now I'm seeing ugly headlines and overreach by both sides.
It's a sad commentary that we're seeing a rollback on plastic bans because of a global pandemic, not because of effective messaging from the industry. Checkout clerks don't want to touch customers' dirty reusable bags. Do you want to tell them that it's their job?
If the industry had stuck with "here's how we can help," that would have been an effective message. Moving on to stop bag bans just seems unnecessary.
Once the pandemic has passed, the world will still have a plastic waste problem. The global plastics sector has acknowledged the problem and pledged to take the lead in fixing it. Those moves are critical to the industry's future.
It's nice to see people saying positive things about plastics again. But let's not push it too far.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.