Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

A Blogger’s Realistic Take on the Beleaguered Plastic Bag

A pre-Christmas blog post titled “In defense of the plastic bag” by Marc Guntherplastic shopping bags in use of Green Biz.Com should be required reading for anyone taking sides in the current plastic bag bans and taxes – whether for or against. Gunther is one of the few surviving specimens of a once-numerous breed called realists, and a reality-based perspective is exactly what this contentious issue needs.

Beginning January 1st, the county where Gunther lives began a five-cent charge for carryout bags at retail stores. He’s not persuaded that plastic bag bans or taxes make sense, and he has his reasons, such as:

They’re not based on science. Studies show plastic bags have less environmental impact than paper, and if reused, are preferable to reusable plastic or cloth.

Some arguments favoring bans don’t hold up. You’ve heard about plastic waste in the ocean, but it’s really not as big as Texas nor is it made of plastic bags.

It’s not a long-term solution for plastic waste. The best solution is recycling, which we’re doing but not nearly as well as we could be.

green plastic shopping bag“You may disagree,” writes Gunther, “but after digging into this subject for a while, I’m certain about only one thing: It’s complicated.” As it happens, that complexity also is a major obstruction to resolving the issue: Environmentalists favor a black and white solution — ban all bags — that avoids dealing with details like the plastic bag’s relatively small carbon footprint.

To make clear the complexity, Gunther gathered information from the head of “Rise Above Plastics” at the Surfrider Foundation, from Mark Daniels, VP of sustainability at plastic bag maker Hilex Poly, from Oprah Winfrey, and from an oceanographer that actually studied Pacific plastic debris at the site.

The oceanographer said  the common expression about the Pacific Garbage Patch, that it is twice the size of Texas, is flat wrong, and is the kind of exaggeration that undermines the credibility of scientists who gather real data. Many websites campaigning for bag bans state that recycled material is more costly than virgin material. Yet Daniels told Gunther that even though virgin material for plastic bags is made from currently cheap natural gas, it costs  less  for Hilex Poly to collect, buy, transport, and reprocess reclaimed material than to buy virgin material.

Near the end of his blog Gunther says we still don’t have a clear answer to the question “paper or plastic” — even when “or reusable” is added as an option. However, at the end he describes his personal solution, which you can find by clicking here. It is worth reading, and here’s a hint about it from Gunther himself: “The plastic isn’t the problem; litter is the problem.” Did I mention he’s realistic?

Monday, November 1st, 2010

SPI and NPE2012: Making News at the K-Show

As I wrote about two weeks ago, SPI team members have been out and about over the last few days at the K-Show in Düsseldorf, Germany kicking off  SPI’s own international plastics showcase, NPE2012, in a grand style!  Hundreds of K-Show attendees turned out for the NPE2012 Reception to meet with show leaders and learn more about the new venue — the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Florida.  And there has even been some breaking news made at other SPI-hosted events. 

At a media breakfast, in addition to unveiling the NPE2012 “Breaking the Mold” marketing campaign, SPI officially announced that the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) will co-locate the 2012 edition of its ANTEC® technical conference with NPE2012. ANTEC is the world’s largest plastics technical conference.  NPE2012 will take place April 1-5, 2012.  Both ANTEC 2012 and the NPE trade show will begin on Monday April 2. (SPI’s  own “Business of Plastics” educational program will be held on April 1.)  In addition to the traditional conference sessions, SPE will organize poster sessions on the NPE show floor in the South Hall of the OCCC. 

In a well-attended presentation given on October 28, SPI President Bill Carteaux cited new 2009 statistics released by SPI that indicate that the U.S. plastics industry remains one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the United States and its trade surplus continues to grow. During his presentation, Carteaux told K-Show attendees:

“While our industry’s number of facilities and employees has declined in recent years, U.S. plastics companies today have remained competitive through innovation, more sophisticated technology, smart efficiency and a strategic focus on developing new markets overseas. This explains why, at a time when the trade balance for all U.S. manufacturing was declining, the plastics industry trade surplus continues to increase substantially.”

Immediately after his presentation, Carteaux was interviewed by media outlets — including the K-Show’s own TV reporter (see the video above).

To keep up with all the latest NPE2012 news, photos and videos, check the NPE2012 web site and be sure to also “Like” the NPE page on Facebook!

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Power of Plastics! SPI Members Meet with Lawmakers on Capitol Hill

As part of  SPI: The Plastic Industry Trade Association’s three-day Fall 2010 National Board Meeting, members brought their voices, insights and concerns to Capitol Hill on September 15th.  Taking place just two months before the November elections, this was an ideal opportunity for the plastics industry to make an impact with their Senators and Representatives.

In all, 53 people representing SPI member companies visited nearly 50 distinct congressional offices — telling plastics’ story as the third largest manufacturing sector in the nation.  SPI members discussed a wide range of business issues with legislators, including energy, the R&D Tax Credit,  Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform, health care, cap and trade bills and a host of regional or state-specific concerns. One item that seemed to be on everybody’s mind was jobs, jobs, jobs! 

It was important for SPI members to educate lawmakers about the plastics industry and remind them that our industry employs more than 1 million people. The visits also established SPI members as industry and business experts whom legislators should consult when in need of accurate information on a variety of critical issues.

Friday, August 27th, 2010

President Obama Cites SPI Member “MGS Plastics” in Wisconsin Clean Energy Manufacturing Speech

President Obama mentioned SPI member company MGS Mfg. Group (Germantown, Wis.) in a speech given on August 16th after he toured the facilities of ZBB Energy Corporation, an MGS customer also based in Wisconsin. Obama shook hands with MGS Mfg. Group CEO Mark Sellers and used both companies as an example as he urged support for  U.S. manufacturing:

“Because of the steps we’ve taken to strengthen the economy, ZBB received a loan that’s helping to fund an expansion of your operations. Already, it’s allowed ZBB to retain nearly a dozen workers. And over time, the company expects to hire about 80 new workers. This is leading to new business for your suppliers, including MGS Plastics and other manufacturer here in Wisconsin.”

ZBB makes batteries used to store electricity from solar cells and wind turbines.  MGS Mfg. Group, an injection molder and moldmaker, provides complete development services to ZBB, including part and product design, tooling, molding, and other manufacturing solutions.


Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Celebrating a Win for Plastics Manufacturing at the White House

President's Post

Yesterday I went to the White House to celebrate a hard-earned victory for job creation and the competitive hopes of American plastics manufacturers. I  felt a real sense of pride and progress as I sat in the East Room and watched President Barack Obama formally sign the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 into law.

I was honored to be at the signing ceremony because SPI’s advocacy team, aided by our dedicated members, worked tirelessly for more than two years to strongly encourage Congress to pass the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (H.R. 4380). The legislation renews a number of expired tariff measures and reduces duties on manufacturing materials (including several essential to the plastics industry) that are not produced domestically, thus lowering costs for U.S. manufacturers. The bill, now formally named the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010, was approved by both the U.S. House and Senate in late July.

While this one law won’t sweep away all of the challenges our industry currently faces, it marks real progress toward leveling the playing field for U.S. plastics manufacturers competing in the global marketplace. It will cut the cost of doing business for SPI members and the entire U.S. plastics industry. Free from the burden of tariffs on manufacturing inputs not produced  in the U.S., plastics companies will find it less challenging to maintain or increase their current workforce, spur investments and eventually help turn the tide in the nation’s economic recovery.

Signing ceremonies like this are the end result of a long advocacy process that involves being engaged with Congress from the start and making sure our industry’s collective voice is heard.  On September 15th our industry will have another opportunity to engage with Congress and have our voices heard — in face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill.

On September 15th SPI members from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for an organized day of meetings with their elected representatives that will be followed by a reception. By taking the time to visit with lawmakers, we have an opportunity to educate them about the key policy issues that are challenging our companies – from energy to TSCA to R&D Tax Credits to a host of international trade concerns and more. Having just returned from their summer recess, legislators will be busy moving on these issues before the rapidly-approaching mid-term elections.

September 15th will be an excellent time for our industry to tell our story, remind Congress that the third largest manufacturing sector is critical to revitalizing the nation’s economy, and plant seeds so that we can celebrate more legislative victories (and signing ceremonies!) in the future.