Imagine you have $10 billion to spend on a new resin plant that will create more than 1,000 good jobs. But key community leaders make it clear that your project is not welcome.
Or you have a few million bucks to build a compounding factory in a small town in Ireland. You have family ties there, and you want to help the local economy with 40 new jobs. But residents use all their political clout to stop the project.
Those aren't imaginary scenarios. They happened to plastics companies in 2019. Negative public opinion about plastic was so widespread that some communities turned down, or at least fought to stop, investments by plastics companies that promised good jobs.
If your company doesn't make plastic straws or grocery bags, you might think you're immune to the ill effects of the single-use plastic debate. But negative public opinion is starting to cause real harm to the industry.
In 2019, when machinery companies reported slumping sales, they didn't just blame the economy. They cited the war on plastic, too.
The plastics industry has responded. More than 40 companies now support the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. More than 400 organizations have signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.
On top of that, brand owners have announced plans to pursue a circular economy strategy for plastics. In most cases, that means making sure all their plastic packaging is recyclable, in addition to boosting their use of recycled plastic.
If these efforts are successful, the plastics industry will look a lot different 10 years from now. We'll see an industry with a better public image. We'll see an industry enjoying sustainable growth.
If they're not successful … well, I think the industry will look a lot different then, too. And it won't be pretty. The status quo isn't an option.