Next up, let's consider bans and taxes. This has been our position: Consumers, regulators and legislators have a responsibility to deal with plastics-related issues without bias. Bans and taxes that encourage replacing plastic products with less sustainable alternative materials must be discouraged.
That's still solid, but we recognize that some plastics industry sectors are already inching toward supporting some bans and taxes. With that in mind, here are some ground rules:
Through plastics pacts and other efforts, brand owners and the packaging supply chain are preparing to declare certain types of plastics packaging "problematic" and will take steps to voluntarily phase those out.
The effort is aimed at making plastic packaging more sustainable, which we cover in another one of the bullet points in our editorial agenda: Companies should consider sustainability when making decisions about resource utilization, including material selection and energy use.
If there truly are more sustainable alternative materials, that's great. But let's not drop "problematic" plastics and replace them with some other "problematic" materials.
On taxes, there have been proposals to add fees to plastic packaging or to tax resin used in nonmedical single-use plastic products.
These kinds of extended producer responsibility proposals can have a positive role in making plastics a more sustainable part of the circular economy. Bottle deposits are a great example of EPR that already works well.
But we oppose taxes on plastics that are aimed primarily at raising revenue for unrelated government programs, and we strongly oppose fees that target only plastic products, ignoring that other types of packaging also have recycling issues.
Let us know what you think of the updates, and here is the rest of our 2022 editorial agenda:
• The industry needs to do more to highlight the benefits of plastics. We need to do more to encourage recycling. Americans, with the encouragement of the industry, have become too comfortable in their habit of throwing away used plastics. Now that bad habit has gone global.
• Profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive concepts; true sustainability will result in long-term health for the plastics industry.
• Consumers, regulators and legislators have a responsibility to deal with plastics-related issues without bias. Bans and taxes that encourage replacing plastic products with less sustainable alternative materials must be discouraged.
• Fairness and honesty should be key parts of business relationships. Would your mother be proud of the way you do business? If not, you'd better reevaluate your efforts.
• For too long, plastics have suffered from an image problem. The industry must combat misinformation by highlighting the benefits of plastics.
• Sustainability is a priority. Companies should consider sustainability when making decisions about resource utilization, including material selection and energy use.
• Recycling must be encouraged. The industry should support state and national bottle bills since bottle-deposit programs have proved effective in collecting a clean, valuable recycling stream.
• Companies and their leaders should take an active role in their communities and in trade groups. Local officials need to be aware of the plastics industry's size and importance so they know that plastics are a significant employer and contributor to the local, national and global economies.
• The industry should speak with a unified voice. This requires cooperation at all levels of the leading trade associations, as well as international and regional groups and with business, consumer and environmental organizations.
• The free market is the best mechanism for raising the standard of living, encouraging democracy and rewarding hard work. Free trade encourages efficiency and inspires stability around the world. Government tax policies should motivate entrepreneurs and investors, help industry compete globally and strive for fairness.
• All sectors of the plastics industry must recruit and retain talented workers. That means paying a fair wage and offering attractive benefits. Having a well-trained and flexible workforce is a competitive advantage, so employers should support education and training. Employers also should embrace diversity in their workforces, including opportunities for women.
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.