Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Arizona Plastic-Bag Bill a Necessary Step toward Limiting Needlessly Burdensome Regulatory Complexity

FPA_2012_winner-Hilex-Poly-KrogerLast year the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimated that the federal regulatory compliance burden for U.S. manufacturing companies exceeds $2 trillion on an annual basis. That’s a staggering figure on its own, but it pales in comparison to what the total eventually would be if every company had to comply with standards, laws and regulations that varied from locality to locality.

The last Census estimated that there were just over 77,000 local governments in the U.S. (excl. school districts). If the cost of compliance for manufacturers is $2 trillion now, what would it be if every one of those local governments grafted their own regulatory scheme on top of what’s already present at the state and federal levels?

Encouraging new opportunities for manufacturing growth in this country will require our legislators to think not merely of taxes, but of new regulations as well. “America’s regulatory framework is in need of a serious reboot,” SPI President and CEO William Carteaux said in the wake of the NAM report. “Comprehensive reform is necessary to allow the nation’s manufacturers to grow their businesses, hire more workers and keep America competitive abroad.”

“A modern regulatory regime based on scientific, technological and economic realities, rather than outdated facts, emotion and hearsay, will ensure the safety of workers, consumers and the environment while still fostering the innovation and job growth that manufacturing is poised to unleash,” he added.

Tailoring this regime to create adequate protections for individuals without overburdening manufacturers with redundancies, needless complications and laws based on bad science will require thoughtful analysis, enactment and implementation, not the broad-stroke, more-is-always-more approach that seems to be popular among so many activists. To this point, Arizona Senate Bill 1241, signed into law this week by Gov. Doug Ducey, is a small but meaningful victory in the battle against baseless overregulation and arbitrary statutes that make compliance a minefield for businesses.Bag2Bag-in-store-160w

By ensuring that the authority to regulate packaging and auxiliary containers rests in state capitols and not in the hands of local governments, SB 1241 certifies that businesses will have to comply with only one set of regulations in Arizona, rather than 432 different sets: one for each local government in the state (excl. school districts). It’s a pro-business bill that precludes the creation of a patchwork of new regulations. More than that, by heading off potential regulatory threats, businesses can plan for the future without worrying that new, increasingly segmented regulations could inhibit them. SB 1241 is a sign that Arizona understands how important that certainty is to business when making investments and moving forward. By providing that certainty, they’ve made it easier for companies to concentrate more on growing their business and creating jobs and less on future compliance challenges. Hopefully other states will follow in Arizona’s footsteps.

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Telling the Plastics Industry’s Story through…Food Packaging Compliance?

SPI’s Project Passport aims to make life easier for brand owners, plastics manufacturers and materials suppliers and is part of an open discussion about science, industry and consumer safety.

FoodPackaging_StockPhotoBrand owners are often correctly viewed as the conduit through which the consumer speaks to the rest of the plastics supply chain. The crazy, upside-down world in which they operate is a demanding one, where information is more available than ever before, and yet confusion continues to run rampant throughout the supply chain, starting with consumers, particularly when it comes to something as ubiquitous as the packaging in which their food is stored.

“The public is understandably confused by the conflicting messages they receive about product safety,” said Kyra Mumbauer, SPI senior director, global regulatory affairs, “and when people  get confused about the safety of the packaging their food comes in, they typically ask the brand owner, whose name is on the package itself, who then asks the manufacturer, who then asks the materials supplier before an answer is finally provided.”

Many of these requests for information go beyond what’s required from a regulatory standpoint, which only complicates the process for diligent materials suppliers and plastics manufacturers that are doing their best to assuage the concerns of their customers. “There may not be a common level of education about what is required from a regulatory standpoint,” Mumbauer said. “But if everyone that has to convey their compliance information has a baseline, then that will lead to a reduction in the number of redundant or unnecessary questions that get asked.”

For brand owners seeking information from their suppliers about the compliance of materials that went into their packaging products, the practical aspects of acquiring and sorting this information can be daunting. At the very least they’re an unnecessary time drain. “You can get 13 different letters from your suppliers that look totally different,” Mumbauer said. “It can be really time consuming and there’s no simple way to organize those documents.”

At least, there wasn’t until now.

2015-project-psspt-4cProject Passport, the latest resource from SPI’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee (FDCPMC) seeks to provide “a more consistent approach to communicating vital compliance information to customers and consumers in a way that’s clear, complete and easy on the eyes.” In its current form, Project Passport’s Guideline for Risk Communication for the Global Food Contact Supply Chain is comprised of three separate components, each of which offers packaging suppliers a key tool to help them communicate the safety of their products to companies and consumers further down the food packaging supply chain:

  • An Example “Food Contact Declaration of Compliance” Form – The form is generic by design so that it can be adapted to different products marketed in various jurisdictions.
  • Instructions – These basic explanations and sample customer assurance statements provide the context to help companies complete the form quickly and effectively.
  • Quick Guides – A series of topical guides is interspersed throughout the document on select topics to provide added clarity on the instructions.

These tools will make it easier for brand owners to make sense of what goes into their packaging products, while simultaneously making it easier for companies to sell their products globally by preemptively addressing the compliance concerns of their potential customers. “New regulatory affairs professionals marketing a product globally can look at this and see what they need to be conveying to their customers,” Mumbauer said, noting that Project Passport currently is designed to address the needs of U.S. and European Union regulatory authorities, and that while complying with these two jurisdictions typically qualifies a product for sale in most countries in the world, as participation increases, Project Passport will continue to expand as well. “By promoting wide adoption of this form and this guideline we’ll have a more consistent approach to communicating information,” she said.

Friday, March 20th, 2015

A Deep Dive: Prince Charles Promotes Recycling, Behavioral Change to Combat Marine Debris during Washington Visit

“Stimulating a second life for plastics is…essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away,” said the Prince of Wales in his comments as prepared for delivery in a speech at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

FriendlyTurtle_AnimatedWebDuring his visit to Washington, D.C. this week Prince Charles delivered a speech on the threat posed by ocean litter and debris and made recommendations for how the world should address the problem. Among those solutions were recycling, recovering or reusing plastics, and for both consumers and the plastics industry to take strides to give every plastic product a second life.

“A truly integrated, systemic solution to this challenge will need to go beyond simply containing the flow of waste and will require a critical examination of how waste is created within our supply chains and economies in the first place,” the Prince of Wales said in his address as prepared for delivery and published on the Prince of Wales’ official website, outlining three specific long-term solutions to the challenge of eliminating plastic waste from the world’s oceans and waterways. “First of all, improving waste management, so that all plastic waste is collected and then either recycled or used for energy production, is a key factor in decreasing the problem of litter,” he said. “Secondly, governments around the world need to integrate the issue of marine littering into their national waste management strategies. Countries with advanced waste management systems and landfill restrictions have demonstrated that even though this path can be more complex and time-consuming, there is no alternative to achieving a long-lasting behavioral change.”

“Thirdly, both the consumer and industry need to consider the value of plastics and thus need to pay the real cost (including externalities). Stimulating a second life for plastics is therefore essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away!” Prince Charles added.

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association agrees, and has worked tirelessly to expand recycling, promote zero waste manufacturing processes and educate the public on the inherent value of plastic materials. SPI promotes the concept of a shift away from a “throw-away” society where items are created, used and then thrown away, advocating for a global transition to what Prince Charles described in his remarks as “a more ‘circular’ economy—that is to say, one in which materials are recovered, recycled and reused.”

More than 20 years ago, SPI helped found Operation Clean Sweep, an industry stewardship program specifically designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep plastic materials out of the marine environment. While OCS continues to grow, SPI has more recently made the pursuit of zero waste one of its chief priorities, working with its members and the entire plastics industry to establish practices and policies that make it easier for all plastic materials and products to be recycled and given the second life they deserve, and that our environment so sorely demands.

“SPI is proud to have contributed to these efforts, and continues to promote their use internationally… But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux last month. “SPI works tirelessly to create new markets for recycled plastic materials, and to spur innovation that makes recycling plastic products easier and more widespread for all consumers and for all types of plastics, from polystyrene foams to rigid packaging to plastic bags and everything in between.

“SPI will continue to work and collaborate with other industry organizations to facilitate programs that increase recycling and eliminate the loss of plastic pellets and materials that end up in our oceans and waterways. By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source,” Carteaux added.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Referendum’s Success Shows APBA Doesn’t Stand Alone in Fight against SB 270

apba-logoEdgeSPI and the plastics industry have always supported the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA). Its efforts to educate lawmakers and the public about the economic and environmental dangers of plastic bag bans and taxes are vital to the continued success and growth of our industry. But we aren’t the only ones standing behind the APBA, as their recent success in qualifying a referendum to repeal California State Bill 270 shows.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Tuesday that a measure to repeal SB 270 would appear on the ballot in November 2016, and that the law’s implementation would be delayed until voters have their say. According to county registrars, at least 555,236 valid signatures were needed to qualify the referendum by random sampling, and that threshold was exceeded Tuesday.

In addition to more than a half million Californians, a coalition of business and taxpayer groups has formed in support of the repeal measure, including:

  • Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers
  • American Forest & Paper Association
  • Calaveras County Taxpayers Association
  • California Taxpayer Protection Committee
  • Contra Costa Taxpayers Association
  • Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
  • Humboldt County Taxpayers League
  • Inland Empire Taxpayers Association
  • International Faith Based Coalition
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • Orange County Taxpayers Association
  • Placer County Taxpayers Association
  • Retailers and Store Owners United to Rebuild California’s Economy
  • Sacramento Taxpayers Association
  • San Diego Tax Fighters
  • San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, Inc.
  • So Cal Tax Revolt Coalition Inc.
  • Solano County Taxpayers Association
  • Sutter County Taxpayers Association
  • Ventura County Taxpayers Association

“SB 270 is a de facto multimillion dollar tax on California’s small businesses and shoppers. Voters should be thrilled to have the opportunity to reverse it,” said John Kabateck, California Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

In addition to suspending the law until after votes are cast in November 2016, qualifying the referendum will also save hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be wasted on state administrative costs associated with implementation of the bill. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office over $700,000 would need to be allocated from the state budget to fund administrative positions from 2015-2018.

“SB 270 was never a bill about the environment. It was a backroom deal between the California Grocers Association and their union friends to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees—all under the guise of environmentalism,” said Lee Califf, Executive Director of the APBA. “California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative.“

“It’s outrageous that California legislators voted to kill California jobs just to line the pockets of big grocers and their labor union supporters. But the APBA is proud to defend these workers and we remain confident California voters will reject the bag ban scam at the ballot box in November 2016,” he added.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

SPI President and CEO: Super Bowl Waste Management Ad Misleads on Plastic Bag Recycling

By SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux

A Waste Management advertisement that ran during the 2015 Super Bowl incorrectly suggested that plastic bags aren’t recyclable. They very much are. In fact, the lightweight plastic bags the ad suggests aren’t recyclable are 100% recyclable, thanks in great part to a number of programs put together by the plastics industry and its partners.

Some background on the ad: Waste Management created the spot as part of its “Recycle Often. Recycle Right.” campaign. The initiative’s goals are noble—improving quality at the curb, reducing contamination in materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and for recyclers. These goals are shared part and parcel by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, at least until they get to the point where they suggest that plastic bags should be treated like trash. The ad in question depicts two animated curbside bins, one for recycling and one for garbage. The recycling one appears to be choking on a plastic retail bag, which it then coughs up as a voice says “not all plastics can be recycled” and the bag is collected by the other bin, the one made for garbage.

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

Waste Management sacrificed the facts for the sake of cuteness. Plastic bags are typically made from low-density polyethylene, a material that’s 100% recyclable. For example, one company, NOVOLEX, a member of SPI and the SPI-supported American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), created a program years ago called “Bag-2-Bag,” which established over 30,000 plastic bag, film and wrap recycling points at grocery stores and retailers across the country. Customers can, and do, take their plastic bags back to these stations the next time they go shopping, and NOVOLEX can, and does, collect them and recycle them into new bags. Each year the company recycles more than 35 million pounds of plastic bags and polyethylene films (including product wrapping and dry cleaner bags) into new bags and other eco-friendly raw materials, demonstrating that these products are quite recyclable.

If Waste Management’s problem with plastic bags is that, when included in the recycling stream, they can gum up their machines and the operation of the MRFs, there are two solutions: they can buy equipment that enables them to recover plastic bags in the MRF environment (technologies that enable this are widely employed in Europe and in select MRFs in North America) and they can work with SPI and the APBA to educate consumers to recycle these materials properly through return-to-retail collection locations.

SPI applauds Waste Management for its dedication to sustainable practices and raising public awareness about recycling, but that’s what makes this ad such a disappointment. Rather than misleading the public, we should be working together to make plastic bag recycling easier and widespread. That way this valuable material can go on to have a second life as a new bag or another product, like plastic lumber. If the public listened to Waste Management’s Super Bowl ad, the effects could be devastating, and instead of slowing down operations in Waste Management’s MRFs or ending up in the appropriate recycling receptacles, plastic bags could end up in Waste Management’s landfills.

Plastic bags often don’t belong in a typical recycling bin, sure, but they also don’t belong in a landfill. Let’s work together to eliminate misconceptions about plastic bag recycling, and increase plastic bag recycling education.