Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Chicago Plastic Bag Ban Leaves Consumers Holding the (paper) Bag

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

Families in Chicago, plastics industry workers and consumers will be impacted after the City Council passed a partial plastic bag ban on April 30, forcing many city businesses to go back to the more expensive and heavier paper bags, which are not as environmentally friendly as once thought.

By banning plastic bags, consumers in Chicago and other cities where plastic bags have or will be banned in the future will be going back to heavier and bulkier paper bags or reusable bags. In addition to the job loss associated with a ban on plastic bags, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, is also concerned about replacing plastic with paper and reusable bags that are not consumer and environmentally friendly.

Here are some facts about paper, as reported by the American Progressive Bag Alliance:

Less material means less waste and fewer emissions.

  • Plastic bags generate 80% less waste than paper bags.
  • Plastic bags generate only 50% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of composted paper bags.
  • The production of plastic bags consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags.
  • A typical plastic bag weighs 4-5 grams and can hold up to 17 pounds—nearly 2,000 times its own weight.
  • Plastic grocery bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags, and produce half the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
  • Plastic bags take up 85 percent less space than paper bags in landfills.
  • During their life cycle, plastic bags require about one-third less energy to make than paper bags. Plastic grocery bags are an extremely resource-efficient multi-use plastic bag choice.
  • For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags, helping to save energy and reduce emissions.
  • It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it does to recycle a pound of paper.
  • By using plastics in their packaging, product manufacturers save enough energy every year to power a city of 1 million homes for 3-1/2 years.

In addition to recycling, a recent national survey shows that over 90% of Americans reuse their plastic bags. About 65% of Americans reuse their bags for trash disposal. Other common uses include lunch bags and pet pick-up. In this regard, the reuse of a plastic shopping bag prevents a second bag from being purchased to fulfill these necessary functions.   These replacement bags are often thicker, bigger and intended to go to the landfill, meaning the unintended consequence is that more plastic is going into the landfill.

A look at other areas in the country where rules on plastic bags were implemented recently shows that bans and taxes don’t work.

  • A ban or tax would make no difference in litter reduction since plastic bags only make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5 percent) of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.
  • In October 2010 along North Carolina’s Outer Banks area, the North Carolina Solid Waste and Management Annual Report for FY 2010-2011 reported that a correlation between the law and the number of bags collected is not apparent.
  • According to a study from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), a ban on plastic bags can negatively impact retail sales in the ban area as well, shifting business to stores just outside the bag ban region. For example, in Los Angeles County, a survey taken one year after a plastic bag band was implemented revealed that the majority of stores surveyed in areas with a ban reported an overall average sales decline of nearly 6 percent while the majority of respondents surveyed in areas without a ban reported an overall average sales growth of 9 percent.

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Chicago City Officials Vote Against American Manufacturing, 30,000 Jobs in Jeopardy

By Lee Califf, Executive Director, American Progressive Bag Alliance

Plastics industry jobs in Illinois suffered a blow on April 24 when the Chicago City Council’s environmental committee unanimously passed a partial plastic bag ban in the city. The measure is scheduled to go before the full city council this week before it is official.

This is a concern of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, who cites the jobs created from the plastics industry as a major plus for America’s economic recovery. The plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector in the United States employs 30,800 people in 349 communities across the country. That’s a significant number of people in the total 900,000 employed by the U.S. plastics industry.

The plastics industry impact in Chicago is a snapshot of the entire country. An in-depth data analysis of the plastics industry’s 2012 performance globally and in the U.S. is detailed in the newly released reports titled, “The Definition, Size and Impact of the U.S. Plastics Industry,” and “Global Business Trends, Partners, Hot Products.”

The report contained the following numbers:

  • $41.7 billion – the U.S. plastics industry’s payroll in 2012
  • 1.4 million – the number of jobs attributed to the plastics industry when suppliers are added
  • $456 billion – the total U.S. shipments attributed to the plastics industry when suppliers are added
  • 6.7 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in the U.S. are in the plastics industry
  • 15.8 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Michigan are in the plastics industry
  • 15.4 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Indiana are in the plastics industry
  • 13.3 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Ohio are in the plastics industry
  • 1 – California (because it is the largest state) has the most plastics industry employees (74,000)
  • 50 – number of states where plastics industry employees and manufacturing activities are found

SPI’s economic reports are free of charge for members. For non-members, the cost of each report is $395. Both reports may be downloaded at http://www.plasticsindustry.org/store

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Plastics Industry Leaders Clean Up the Beach While in Miami

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

Bottles, aluminum cans, food wrappers, rubber tires and even a discarded grill were among items pulled from the Crandon Park beach in Miami during a beach clean up event hosted by the Ocean Conservancy and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.  The beach cleanup kicked off SPI’s National Board Meeting  held in a nearby Miami hotel.

SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux and VP Patty Long didn’t hesitate to wade through knee-deep water for trash.

SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux and VP Patty Long didn’t hesitate to wade through knee-deep water for trash.

As the bus of 40 to 45 SPI staff and association members pulled up to the beach, Miami-Dade County Park coordinator Alex Martinez noted that “with this number of people collecting the trash, we’ll actually get something done.”

SPI President and Chief Executive Officer William R. Carteaux slipped on a pair of rubber gloves and led the group, wading through the knee-deep water at times. After a couple of hours in the water and scouring the underbrush, SPI members and staff collected nearly three pickup trucks full of trash from a particular section of beach. At one point, association member Tad Mcguire and SPI staffer Michael Taylor pulled out a rusty tent supporter, claiming lightheartedly, “we’re the plastics industry, we’re not quitting.”

The following day, SPI presented a check to Miami-Dade Park Service official Bill Ahern for the Sea Turtle Conservation Program. Ahern and his wife Selina Mills originally met while on a sea turtle preservation event, and have put much effort into their preservation during the last 25 years.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recognizes Ahern’s efforts behind turtle preservation and issued a permit for further work in that area, conducting  turtle surveys, relocating nests, hatchling releases and other duties regarding marine turtles.

In addition to welcoming new members and association business at the meeting, SPI promoted its zero waste initiative, as well as their ongoing concern to mitigate the trash in the oceans and waterways. It is a feature in SPI’s new magazine, titled Marine Debris: A Deep Dive into the Science & Solutions.

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Virginia County Makes Rigid Recycling Convenient

By Jamie Clark, Vice President and General Manager of Printpack Rigid

In July, James City County, Va., and three other Virginia municipalities will join the ranks of progressive counties by offering residents the opportunity to recycle rigid plastics at the curbside. Among other plastic containers, items added to curbside pickup will include plastics like yogurt cups and grocery store clam shells.

Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark

As an officer of SPI and chairman of the affiliated Rigid Plastics Packaging Group (RPPG), my team and I helped support a study on rigid plastics recovery within the county that led to this decision. I live and work in James City County.

The Virginia Public Service Authority (VPPSA), which manages curbside collection for the four municipalities, led the initiative with support from Printpack and RPPG.  The study showed that when households were asked to recycle all rigid plastics, the entire quantity of recyclables went up by 20 percent with polypropylene and non-bottle PET making up the majority of the increase.  PET bottles, which are already included in the program, also saw a substantial bump.  Both polypropylene and PET are highly recyclable and valuable to the industry.  In addition, there was no significant increase in non-recyclable materials.

National recycling statistics show a trend in improvements in the recovery stream for rigid plastics.  Non-bottle rigid plastic recovery increased threefold from 325,440,000 pounds collected in 2007 to 933,927,245 pounds in 2011. Also, the ratio of materials staying in Canada and the U.S. as opposed to being shipped to other countries, increased from 37 percent to 61 percent, which is higher than aluminum and paper.

VPPSA officials were initially reluctant to collect all rigid plastics because they were concerned that the market for mixed plastics seemed to be centered overseas, and they wanted to be certain that if rigids were collected, they would actually be recycled. Traditionally, the only plastic materials they accepted were PET bottles and HDPE jugs with necks.

When VPPSA put out their curbside collection contract for bid, they did not include all rigid plastics in the RFQ because of the perceived lack of economic incentive and the fear that there would be cost increases associated with collecting all rigids.

With the support of SPI and the American Chemistry Council, I assured them that the domestic market was developing to handle this type of recovery. The expanded recycling won’t cost the localities more, nor will it require a change in the regional contract.  There is a market for the materials, and contractors seem to be looking for more mixed plastic.

I also pointed out that the level of polypropylene consumed in China is three to four times that in the U.S., thus we should not be surprised that Asia has high demand for this raw material. This is a good thing.

A meeting held in January 2014 to discuss expanding the region’s recycling program included Printpack executives and representatives from the SPI, the Southeast Recycling Development Council, County Waste (the MRF that won the bid substantially reducing VPPSA’s cost) and James City County’s Economic Development and General Services Departments.

County Waste officials said they were collecting rigid plastics elsewhere and were ready to collect them in our region. County Waste made the difference here – they clearly understood that maximizing collection and recycling of all rigid plastics was profitable.

The James City County Economic Development Group was instrumental in aligning the parties and moving this initiative forward.  There is good reason that Forbes Magazine ranked Virginia the best state for Business in 2013.

The grassroots efforts of Printpack associates helped generate attention to the issue. Our associates, who live in James City and the other municipalities involved, reached out to their respective local officials and let them know this was an important issue.  This resulted in several critical meetings and plant tours with influential elected officials.

Being accessible the Virginia Gazette, the local newspaper, helped promote the effort.   Environmental reporter Cortney Langley was intrigued by the story as it was a case where industry leaders were actually pushing for “the right thing to do.”  She published two stories about the initiative.

Citizens of the county can expect a simple procedure of simply separating their plastics in a separate bin to be picked up with regular waste disposal.  With local industries and citizens at large aligned, this no cost solution to aid in the recovery of plastics is projected to be a hit in our community.

If there’s a lesson for our industry – it’s that we can make a difference.   We have 900,000 people employed in our industry we need engage them all and make them ambassadors to communicate our message across the nation.

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

For SPI Recycling Committee, the Future to Zero Waste is Bright

By Kim Holmes, SPI’s Director, Recycling and Diversion

With an organization-wide mantra to pursue zero waste, last year SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association formed its newest committee to focus on recovery and recycling of scrap plastics, a program that further supports the zero waste initiative. The make-up of SPI’s membership, which represents the full plastics supply chain, gives the newly formed Recycling Committee a unique angle to approach the full lifecycle of discussions around recovery of plastics. Since the formal establishment of the committee in the fall of 2013, the group attracted nearly 50 member companies to become involved in a broad range of efforts.

“It’s truly exciting to see companies from across the supply chain, bringing together their knowledge, expertise and passion to help further plastic recovery. By efficiently leveraging these collective assets, we are on track to accomplish some exciting work this year,” noted Lori Carson, director of commercial operations at Phoenix Technologies International and chair of the SPI Recycling Committee.

The SPI Recycling Committee met March 10 in advance of the Plastics Recycling Conference to discuss projects that each subcommittee will undertake this year and to gather feedback from committee members on progress and the direction of the course that the group has charted. The meeting was widely attended by plastics industry leaders from processors and suppliers to brand owners as well as non SPI members.

Attendees heard from speakers including SPI President and CEO William Carteaux, who kicked-off the meeting with praise for the committee’s progress and leadership since its 2013 formation. Other discussions included global efforts and initiatives that members can become involved in. To that end, Michael Taylor, SPI’s senior international affairs, presented the group with information on a number of international opportunities from past SPI trade missions and planned 2014 missions.

Some of the activities that will be undertaken in 2014 include:

• Developing strategies for navigating the changing domestic and export markets
• Engaging federal regulators on key issues shaping the plastics recycling industry
• Providing tools and resources to members on changing packaging and labeling trends
• Mapping brand owner and processor needs for recycled plastics
• Technical projects that will help expand the use and recovery of scrap plastics

The committee will work on recycling issues taking place in all segments of the plastics industry value chain. The next meeting is scheduled for May. For more information about the committee contact Kim Holmes at kholmes@plasticsinudstry.org.