Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Why TSCA Reform Benefits Both the Public and the Plastics Industry

US CapitolThere’s much praise for both the House and Senate versions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) legislation. Why? How does reforming a 40-year old piece of legislation impact an additive supplier in the value chain for an intricate piece in a larger finished product? Why should consumers be optimistic about the safety of future household products?

TSCA reform that is being negotiated by representatives from each chamber of Congress will update the 40-year-old regulatory framework to reflect today’s chemical manufacturing environment. In particular, we expect the negotiated version to overhaul the safety standards for chemicals entering the market, codify federal preemption language, and to protect confidential business information.

Here’s a look at what SPI and its members/stakeholders support:

Updated Safety Standards

TSCA will better define the safety standards that chemical manufacturers must meet so that consumers are more confident about the safety of chemicals in commerce. Costs and other non-risk factors should not be considered when evaluating the safety of a chemical. It is important TSCA consider potentially exposed subpopulations, such as children, to a chemical even under the intended conditions of use. Without these changes, it is difficult for businesses to demonstrate the safety of their products under the current, outdated regulatory system.

Federal Regulation to Preempt State Regulations

TSCA reform will reduce the need some states feel to step into the realm of chemical regulation. It’s more efficient for a company to comply with one federal regulation than it is to juggle 50 individual state regulations. The federal government recognizes this and is defining a threshold for states to implement their own regulatory standards.

Protect Confidential Business Information

Today’s TSCA reform outlines when information needs to be provided by private companies, but it also clarifies what is and is not protected. This confidence allows businesses to move forward with more innovative solutions to today’s chemical needs without worrying about disclosing trade secrets in the regulatory process.

U.S. manufacturers have made great strides in advancing chemical technology and use. These innovations make life as we know it possible. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment has not kept pace – but we expect this to change when negotiations conclude and a final bill is signed into law. We are confident that promising days lie ahead for those in the plastics industry impacted by TSCA.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Shannon Stickler

Stickler, ShannonThe FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40. For our second entry, we spoke to FLiP member Shannon Sticker of Printpack.

Where do you work and what’s your title?

Printpack, Market Development Manager

Tell us a little about what your company does.

Printpack is a major converter of flexible and specialty rigid packaging with a history of innovating for more than fifty years with manufacturing plants throughout the United States, Mexico and China.

How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

When I graduated from college I came across a job posting at Printpack. The sales position was located in a plant near where I am from. At the time I didn’t know much about the plastics industry. I started out in a training role and before I knew it a decade had passed.

Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of great mentors throughout the years. Being right out of college, it was very helpful to have someone who provided a sounding board as I established myself in the workforce. As my roles have evolved over the years, my mentors’ insights have continued to help me become a stronger leader.

Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

On an average day, I plan and organize our marketing and branding activities, help drive cross-divisional opportunities and collaboration, and communicate our initiatives and strategy internally.

What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

The best part about working in plastics is being a part of an industry that is truly changing the world.

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

I have a better appreciation for what it takes to produce the everyday things that we take for granted – cars, phones, packaged food.

Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

The plastics industry is full of opportunity. There is always something to learn and you can be a part of an industry that is developing products for the future.

What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

My iPhone. Although surely I could sustain life without it, I would prefer not to test it out.

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Seven Ways You Can Make a Difference on Earth Day

The plastics industry’s best asset is its people; always has been, always will be. The nearly one million plastics professionals in the U.S. aren’t just the fuel of a $427 billion industry. Together they comprise a community of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of plastics to make the world a better, safer, greener place.

That’s why throughout the month of April, SPI is asking every plastics professional to pledge one act of green, using the hashtag #SPIEarthDay, to reduce their environmental impact this Earth Day, April 22, 2016 (4/22/2016). Here are seven small, individual acts of green that can collectively add up to big environmental changes:

Male hand putting plastic bottle in recycling bin1. Reusing and recycling: These are as relevant and important now as they ever have been. Whether it’s taking the bags back to the grocery store or taking your old electronics to a facility where they can have a new life, recycling and reusing plastic materials adds to their value and reduces their overall environmental footprint.

2. Waste avoidance: Composting isn’t just for hipsters and Portland residents anymore. Striving for zero food waste is a lot easier than you’d think, and that’s just the beginning. Paperless banking, double-sided printing and so many other simple steps can be taken to reduce or eliminate excess paper, plastic or any other material for that matter. For plastics professionals specifically, there’s also the Operation Clean Sweep guidelines that, when implemented properly, can eliminate pellet loss in your facilities, keeping those materials out of waterways, and in your machines and products where they belong.

3. Purchasing: The plastics industry promotes the use of recycled plastic content in products as a way to extend the lifecycle of the material. What better way to support and promote the use of recycled plastic than by buying products that use it in your own day-to-day purchasing decisions.

Showerhead4. Water: If you’re looking for a weekend project, try installing a low flow shower head, toilet or faucet, or planting some plants that require less water, installing rain barrels or investing in some drought resistant landscaping. If you’re not looking for a weekend project, do any of the above, and watch your water bills decline as you strike a blow for smarter management of humanity’s most valuable resource.

5. Energy Conservation: Even something as simple as washing your clothes with cold water, or unplugging your phone charger while it’s not in use, can, collectively, save a lot of energy, reduce your own carbon footprint and make a real difference.

BlogPhoto6_Transportation6. Transportation: So much of each individual’s environmental impact is comprised of the way one gets from one place to another. Cutting out one car trip, riding a bike or using public transportation are easy ways to decrease that impact without much hassle.

7. Team Up: Again, the plastics industry isn’t just an industry, but a community of people who believe in the unlimited potential of these materials to change lives, and to change the world. Consider teaming up with others this Earth Day, whether it’s with your fellow plastics professionals, your friends, your family, your neighbors or whoever, to augment the impact of your actions and spread the word that sustainability is everyone’s responsibility.

BlogPhoto7_Team

Monday, April 4th, 2016

DOL Releases Final Persuader Rule

On March 23, the Department of Labor (DOL) released the final “persuader rule” which changes longstanding requirements on how employers can seek advice regarding union organizing activities and when employers and others have to disclose information to DOL. The previous rule required disclosure only from employers and others who had direct contact with employees regarding union organizing campaigns.

obama
The new rule will now require persuader disclosure by third-party lawyers and labor consultants educating employers on union organizing rights and collective bargaining, even if they have no direct contact with employees. Management attorneys argue that the new rule will threaten client confidentiality and hamper the ability of employers to seek advice to respond to unionization activities. The Obama Administration says that the rule will provide clarity to employees and the public without limiting what employers and consultants can say, and while informing workers of who is saying what. Exempt from disclosure is the advice from consultants and lawyers making “recommendations regarding a decision or course of conduct.” Trade associations are only exempted if they do not conduct seminars or provide materials to member companies.

The rule takes effect on April 25, 2016, and is applicable for arrangements and agreements made after July 1. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), of which SPI is a member, is reviewing the final rule and will challenge it in court if warranted. 

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Five Regulatory Issues to Watch in 2016

This year is proving to be packed with regulatory activity at the federal level for two big reasons: first, with Congress focused on elections, federal agencies can take actions with less scrutiny than they might’ve faced in any other year, and second, this is President Obama’s last opportunity to make lasting policy changes. Stateside, California will remain active from a regulatory standpoint this year as well, because…well…it’s California.

While SPI addresses countless issues stemming from the federal agencies’ semi-annual agendas, federal courts and the states, here is a sampling of issues that impact the plastics industry.

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final FSVP rule in November 2015 under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSVP governs food that is imported to the United States and ensures that those importing food are doing so in a manner that is as safe as possible for the American public. SPI worked with FDA to ensure that the rule would include an explicit exemption for food contact substances, but unfortunately the final rule did not provide any such exemption. By default, this means the rule encompasses food packaging. SPI members could be subject to onerous and unnecessary requirements to conduct food safety hazard assessments and audits of their foreign suppliers if they manufacture food contact substances. SPI is currently working with FDA on the issue and hopes to see some clarifying action by the agency in 2016.

Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

The pending Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) highest priorities. A final rule is under review at the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB), Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). SPI submitted comments on the November 2013 proposal, which would require the electronic transmission (annual or quarterly, depending on the number of employees) of information that is currently recorded, but not reported, to OSHA or its designee. Significant concerns include maintaining employee confidentiality, particularly with the posting of information on a public website, as well as employer and agency resource burdens.

Combustible Dust Rule

OSHA does not have a comprehensive standard to address combustible dust, though it is now in the definition of “hazardous chemical” in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Combustible dust incidents have resulted in fires and explosions, and rulemaking activity was first published in the Unified Agenda in spring 2009. The next step is seeking small business input, required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), but there are continuous delays. SPI will monitor OSHA’s progress. SPI is also watching combustible dust activity under the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and comment on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards 654 and 652. SPI is currently developing comments for the revision of NPFA 652, due June 29.

Risk Management Plan Rule

EPA began the rulemaking process for revisions to the Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule with a Request for Information (RFI) in 2014. RMP requires facilities that meet threshold quantity requirements of specific regulated substances to develop plans in case there is an accidental release. After the SBREFA process, EPA released a proposed rule in February 2016. SPI will file comments. OSHA is now convening a SBREFA panel for potential revisions to the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) standard, for which OSHA issued an RFI in December 2013. SPI will continue monitoring.

California’s 75% Initiative – Manufacturers’ Challenge 

In 2011 California passed legislation that sets a non-mandatory target of a 75% reduction of solid waste to landfill through reduction, recycling, or composting by 2020. The “75% Initiative,” as it’s referred to, is being implemented by CalRecycle, the state agency that handles recycling and recovery efforts. The Manufacturers’ Challenge is a program that is intended to target packaging materials and sets a goal of a 50% reduction of packaging to landfills by 2020. SPI has submitted comments and met with CalRecycle, and also participated in the Manufacturers’ Challenge meeting, which took place on January 5, 2016. More updates on the initiative and CalRecycle’s outreach efforts to manufacturers could occur in 2016, and SPI will keep the plastics industry informed as they arise.