Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Bridging the Gap between Policymakers and Business Owners

Every year, members of the plastics industry have the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. to meet directly with members of Congress and voice their opinions on policies that directly affect their line of business. The Plastics Industry Fly-In is a way to bridge the gap between policymakers and business owners. Members of Congress and their staffs deal with a number of issues and when they are able to put a face and story to a policy, it helps them make better informed decisions. Below are comments on the importance of the Fly-In from some industry members who have participated in past Fly-Ins:

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Ted Fisher, Sales Director, ALAC International, Inc.: “I attended my first Fly-In in 2010, and haven’t missed one since.

The initial exposure to the inner, inside-office and inner workings on Capitol Hill was significant. I went from a deer in the headlights to being fairly comfortable very quickly, but you have to take that first step. Going up there with your colleagues and having things laid out for you, like they are at the Fly-In, certainly gets you up to speed pretty quickly.

When you’re face-to-face with the staffers, senators and the congressmen themselves, that’s your opportunity to convey what’s important to your organization, and you can’t do that remotely. You’ve got to be in front of them to make an impact.”

 

Wylie Royce

Wylie Royce, Partner, Royce Associates: “Too many people in our industry think that because they may not come from a large company, going to D.C. is a waste of time. There is also an assumption that the big company lobbyists will take care of the industry issues for them, and that is simply not the case. Lobbyists take care of what they are paid to take care of, and if it coincides with your interests that’s good; if it doesn’t, then you are letting someone who has no interest in your future make your business decisions for you.

After one or two visits to D.C. to attend the Fly-In you may think, ‘Why should I bother? Nothing seems to be getting done.’ What’s getting done is you are building a relationship with the legislators who can directly affect your business, and this relationship isn’t built overnight. Instead, it requires several visits and follow-up calls. By building this relationship, you are becoming a credible source of information to your legislators and their staff, and you will have a voice in decisions that they make. In some cases, that could mean the difference between continuing and dropping a complete line of products.”

Greg Leighton with Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) at C&G Mercury Plastics.

Greg Leighton with Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) at C&G Mercury Plastics.

Greg Leighton, Owner, C&G Mercury Plastics: “The benefits of the Fly-In are that I get to see my legislators personally. When I talk to them on the phone they recognize me. I When I invite them for a plant tour, they come.

I went to Congressman Tony Cardenas’ office at a Fly-In a couple of years ago. A few years after, we invited him to visit our plant, and he came. He brought his chief of staff, toured the plant and was impressed by what we were doing.

The Fly-In also shows the next generation that you don’t have to be nervous to do this. There’s all this angst out there for the next generation: ‘What’s the future going to look like?’ You need to show that you can participate in that future.”

Participating in the Fly-In is a key step in creating long-term relationships with legislators and policymakers that can benefit your company for years to come. This year, the Fly-In will be held June 21-22 on Capitol Hill. To register, click here.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

The U.S. Plastics Industry’s Top Five Export Markets

Of the U.S. plastics industry’s $427 billion in annual sales, slightly more than 20 percent of that comes from exports, according to SPI’s 2015 Global Trends Report. The lion’s share of that goes to these top five export markets for the U.S. plastics industry as of 2015.

Sunday´s bikers in Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico

1) Mexico

No surprise that the first entry on this list is America’s closest neighbor and strongest trading partner.  The U.S. exported $15.8 billion in goods to Mexico in 2014. Mexico’s plastics industry relies greatly on its U.S. partners, particularly when it comes to resin, where the U.S. has a $6.7 billion surplus with Mexico.

Toronto skyline

2) Canada

The U.S. plastics industry exported $13.2 billion worth of products to its northern neighbor in 2014. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) drives a great deal of America’s beneficial trade relationships with both Canada and Mexico, but this relationship goes both ways. Most U.S. polyethylene imports come from Canada, a country with rich hydrocarbon resources that can be converted into chemicals and resins.

Beijing, China CBD Cityscape

3) China

The world’s largest resin consumer is America’s third-largest export market, where U.S. companies had a $2.8 billion surplus in 2014 (as opposed to a $9.2 billion deficit for the industry as a whole).

Rio

4) Brazil

Brazil relies heavily on U.S. products from throughout the plastics supply chain, with the U.S. running trade surpluses with the country in all four plastics categories (resin, plastic products, molds and plastics machinery).

Yokohama

5) Japan

Japan could overtake Brazil to become the fourth-largest export market for U.S. companies (if it hasn’t already since the time of this writing) but regardless, it remains an important trade partner for the U.S. and ships a great deal of machinery put to use at U.S. companies.

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Plastic Packaging and the Ability to Feed People

FoodPackaging_StockPhotoOne of the simplest reasons packaging is poised to become a nearly $1 trillion industry in the next decade is because it contains, protects and preserves food and water. With as much food and water as we consume, the prevalence of food waste, and packaging’s role in eliminating it, was a prominent theme at this year’s Flexible Film & Bag Conference, which wrapped up in Houston, Texas last week.

The plastic films and flexible plastic packaging that covers meat, poultry, cheese, vegetables and other edible goods prolong the life of the products they contain by shielding them from bacteria, heat, cold and moisture, among other things. Attendees representing the companies that manufacture some of these items discussed ways to make their products more efficient and effective in combating lost and wasted food, a global issue that’s reached critical levels in environmental, economic and humanitarian terms.

Chopin at the 2016 Flexible Film & Bag Conference

Chopin at the 2016 Flexible Film & Bag Conference

“Food waste is an incredible problem,” said presenter Lamy Chopin of Dow Chemical. “If you consider the ripple effect of losing valuable food, the farmers that have invested in the land…any of that product that doesn’t get consumed has a significant greenhouse footprint.” The financial impact of food waste, according to Chopin, is up to $300 billion lost annually.

Environmentally, the impact of food waste is at least ten times larger than the environmental impact of packaging, and part of what makes that the case is plastic’s unique material and manufacturing properties. “One of the reasons why plastics are winning in the space of packaging in particular is they’re incredibly efficient,” Chopin noted. “They win out in terms of energy use and impact” when compared to other packaging materials, he added.

The epidemic of food waste and the ramifications it has for society are a huge priority for agencies, NGOs and governments around the globe. Plastic materials, particularly plastic films, will have an important role to play in combating these issues, and doing so as sustainably and efficiently as possible.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Brand Owners, Sustainability Leaders Launch Initiatives at First-Ever Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo

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SPI’s first-ever Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo wrapped up in Orlando last week. The two-day program featured executive-level forums, diverse educational sessions, dozens of cutting-edge vendors in the Expo Hall and a fair share of big announcements from some of the world’s most recognizable names in consumer products:

  • Keynote speaker Kelly Semrau, S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, communication and sustainability, announced her company’s latest initiative to help build the infrastructure to eventually make Ziploc bags widely recyclable via curbside recycling programs.

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  • Walmart’s Ashley Hall noted that the world’s largest private employer will be using the How2Recycle label on its private label products.
  • Consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson reiterated its commitment to creating sustainable products and educating consumers about the importance of recycling bathroom goods through the company’s Care to Recycle online toolkit, which shows families, what, how and where to recycle.

SPI also released its latest Plastics Market Watch report, Automotive Recycling: Devalued is now Revalued.

In addition to the announcements and educational sessions, Re|focus boasted a 10,000 net square foot exhibit hall, a core focus of the conference where attendees learned about various products that could help their companies achieve their sustainability goals. They could also see demonstrations of various types of recycling equipment, like this nifty shredder.

Shredder from Jacob Barron on Vimeo.

The Exhibit Hall also gave visitors the opportunity to learn more about how a plastic product can be recycled and converted into a completely different product for consumers. The Life Cycle Application center featured a number of different products that start out seemingly having little to no value, but, after reclamation and recycling, go on to become a valuable high-end feedstock for manufacturing. The Center was produced by SPI in partnership with Wellman.

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“We were so impressed by the turnout and candid conversation about working together collaboratively to reduce waste and promote recycling, with stakeholders and industry influencers representing various parts of the supply chain,” said Kim Holmes, senior director of recycling and diversion at SPI. “Re|focus had a successful inaugural summit and next year, we will return with an equally robust program to continue to drive conversation on how we all play a role in collectively committing to sustainable practices. We look forward to hosting in 2017.”

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.