Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Senator Stabenow Shares Roundtable Discussion with Michigan SPI Members

From L to R: Jim Lammers, President of Dart Container Corporation, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bill Carteaux, SPI President and CEO.

From L to R: Jim Lammers, President of Dart Container Corporation, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bill Carteaux, SPI President and CEO.

Twelve executives of SPI member companies in Michigan met on August 18 with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) at the headquarters of Dart Container Corporation in Mason, Michigan (see more photos here). Held in a roundtable format, the discussion provided Senator Stabenow and SPI members the opportunity for a dialogue on issues of mutual concern. Stabenow is an early cosponsor of SPI-backed S. 697, TSCA reform legislation awaiting a Senate floor vote. She reaffirmed her support for the legislation and told the SPI members that the bill has the votes to pass. Separately, all agreed that finding skilled workers is one of the major concerns for the industry and for manufacturing in general. The Senator urged industry members to work with school districts to provide equipment and expertise to help redefine careers in manufacturing at the high school level. Other issues facing the companies represented were federal regulatory overreach, the need for modernization of the nation’s infrastructure including the electrical grid, and the uncertainty of waiting for yearly renewals of the Sec. 179 small business expensing and “bonus depreciation” tax provisions. With regard to infrastructure, the Senator commented on her support for a long-term reauthorization of the federal Highway Trust Fund as well as her recent committee vote on energy legislation. Long a supporter of tax credits for manufacturing, Senator Stabenow wants to push for the permanent extension of Sec. 179 and bonus depreciation. In July, she voted for legislation that would provide two-year extensions until December 31, 2016, for certain tax credits including research and development, Sec. 179 and bonus depreciation.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

What Got Buried in the Plastic Bag News The Last Two Weeks

The media makes a regular habit of writing articles about plastic bag bans and taxes, but details regarding the negative effects of these ordinances on residents, retailers and other businesses – and the often anti-democratic means by which these measures are enacted – tend to get buried below the fold. Here’s what you might’ve missed in the past couple of weeks:

Plastic-Bags-Closeup-260w-Chicago, Illinois implemented its bag ban on August 1, and a few articles took note of the negative effects this ordinance has had and will continue to have on local businesses – particularly small ones. An article in Crain’s noted that one area employer, BioStar Films, and its Wheeling, Ill.-based sister company, Aargus Plastics, do approximately 35 percent of their business in Chicago, and that while they’ll be able to adapt to meet the city’s specific requirements, losses will be impossible to avoid. “We are going to have to end up making less product,” the article quotes Scott Starr, Biostar Films and Aargus Plastics vice president, as saying. “If we have to reduce the amount of output, then we are going to end up eventually reducing employees.” Starr also was quoted in a Daily Herald article about the same issues and about the misinformation that has led people to believe that bag bans are good for the environment.

BioStar Films employs about 100 people, so while “big plastic” catches the brunt of the vitriol from bag ban and tax proponents, more attention should be paid to the effects these ordinances have on “small plastic” – the companies that can’t afford to keep their employees on staff because of poorly-considered legislation.

-Roughly 400 miles northwest of Chicago, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an article ran in the Star Tribune under the byline of its editorial board, urging the City Council to “proceed with caution” on a proposed plastic bag ban. Though the board eventually stated its general support for bag bans, it also highlighted “legitimate concerns” raised by local retailers about a host of issues.  That includes the dangers of local vs. state regulation; increased costs to businesses that lead to increased costs for consumers (paper bags cost far more to provide than plastic); and the not-insignificant fact that “paper bags take more energy to produce.” Even bag ban supporters admit that bag bans have economic and environmental impacts that are not wholly positive.

Bag2Bag-in-store-160w-Elsewhere in the U.S., at least one municipal governing body appeared poised to, if anything, let voters decide whether to enact a local plastic bag ordinance. The Ordinance Committee of the Town Council of Freeport, Maine decided it needed more data – on plastic bags, paper bags and the economic impact of a ban or tax – before deciding whether to move forward with regulation. Additionally, Ordinance Committee Chair Sarah Tracy noted that any ordinance should have the support of residents before becoming law, with The Forecaster quoting Tracy as saying, “I think it’s important to make sure it’s supported by the town.” The Tri-Town Weekly also quoted Tracy as saying that the plastic bags issue is “not a slam dunk” and cited figures provided to the Ordinance Committee by the American Progressive Bag Alliance’s Mindi Mebane, who said, “For one thing…a 2014 Rhode Island study showed that plastic bags account for 1.2 percent of the litter stream in New England. And the Environmental Protection Agency says that plastic bags constitute 0.4 percent of the municipal solid waste in the country,” according to the article.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

What You Missed at the 2015 Compounders Conference

Compounders1_PresentationRoomA vital, dynamic program filled with blockbuster speakers and keen regulatory insights drew a record-setting crowd to the 2015 Compounders Conference last month. From topics as broad as the current state of American politics to subjects as specific as diisononyl phthalate (DINP) in vinyl flooring products, the 26th Compounders Conference proved again why it’s the premier technical, regulatory and business development conference for the flexible vinyl industry. A suite of networking opportunities, including a scenic ride up the Potomac on a river boat, rounded out the program, ensuring that every attendee returned to the office with new knowledge, tools and contacts.

Here’s just a glimpse at what you missed at this year’s Compounders Conference:

-World-Class Economic and Political Keynote Speakers – Martin Regalia, senior vice president & chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opened the conference with an in-depth look at the global economy and America’s place in it, suggesting that a strong dollar and weak growth outside the U.S. could combine to pose a serious threat to American exports, among many other macro-level insights. Regalia’s presentation was followed by an insider’s look at American politics from Howard Fineman, a political analyst for MSNBC and global editorial director of The Huffington Post Media Group. Peppering his presentation with big picture predictions, real strategic political analysis and just the right amount of humor, Fineman offered frank insights about the American political landscape and how that landscape might shift between now and the next presidential election.

Howard Fineman

Howard Fineman

-Intense and Up-to-the-Minute Rundowns on Industry Regulations and Standards – From a presentation on Green Building standards delivered by Green Building Initiative Executive Director Vicki Worden, to an update from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute on California’s regulation of Diisononyl Phthalate (DINP) in vinyl flooring products, all the way to a discussion about the current state of play for an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from SPI, the Compounders Conference was where industry professionals went to hear the latest information on relevant standards and regulations from the experts and organizations that know them best.

-Complimentary Professional-Grade Headshots – Unique to this year’s Compounders Conference, attendees were able to take advantage of the Headshot Lounge, where they could get their own professionally-taken headshots, complete with the aid of complimentary hair and makeup stylists, that they could take home and use as they see fit for their careers. While waiting for their turn, conference attendees could also mingle with one another while snacking on lite fare and enjoying a refreshing drink or complimentary glass of champagne.

-An Introduction to SPI’s Prop 65 Insurance Plan – Prop 65 in California isn’t merely the nation’s most stringently enforced product-labeling regulation; it’s also an invitation to certain lawyers (referred to at the conference and in the industry as “bounty hunters”) to file frivolous lawsuits against manufacturers, compounders an brand owners under the law in the hopes that the plaintiff will settle despite the absence of any public health risk. This regulation affects companies in California, but also stretches well beyond the state’s boundaries, all the way down the plastics supply chain. Attendees at the Compounders Conference got an in-depth preview of SPI’s forthcoming Prop 65 insurance program, that promises to mitigate the enormous fiscal risks this overzealous, unscientific regulation presents to plastics manufacturers, processors and brand owners. Learn more here.Compounders4_Riverboat

-Countless Other Relevant Sessions and Chances to Network with Fellow Industry Professionals – Be sure to mark your calendars for the 27th Compounders Conference next year, and in the meantime check out all the benefits SPI’s Flexible Vinyl Products Division (and SPI’s Materials Suppliers Council) has to offer your company.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

What You Missed at SPI’s International Symposium on Worldwide Regulation of Food Packaging

FDCPMC_IntlSymp_PierAside from a chance to network with 150+ experts from government, industry and scientific institutions and the largest Chinese delegation in conference history, the 12th Biennial International Symposium on Worldwide Regulation of Food Packaging featured several valuable program and after-hours highlights:

-An Update on U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Regulation of Food Contact Materials, from the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety (OFAS) Itself:  Filled with direct, technical glimpses into the operations of the FDA and previews of updates to the Redbook and Chemistry Guidance the food packaging industry can expect to see in the coming months and years, the Symposium-opening presentation from Allan Bailey, from OFAS’ Division of Food Contact Notifications, delivered the insights that brought attendees to the conference in the first place.

FDCPMC_IntlSymp_Staff-An In-Depth Look at Food Contact Regulations Around the Globe: With panels organized according to region and representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Canada, China, Japan, Australia/New Zealand, Thailand and several from the European Union delivering presentations, this year’s program was among the most geographically diverse and thorough in Symposium history. Government officials from the various regions took this opportunity to compare their respective regulatory schemes and hear industry perspectives, an important exercise to increase alignment of the world’s food packaging regulations and allow for more efficient global marketing of these products.

-A Dinner Cruise Through the Baltimore Harbor: All attendees, speakers and guests gathered together on the Raven for a networking event and dinner cruise as the sun set on the scenic Baltimore harbor. This was just one of the event’s networking opportunities though, between breaks, lunches, dinners and receptions, the event offered attendees countless chances to meet and greet colleagues new and old and to discuss regulatory challenges with government officials at the event.FDCPMC_IntlSymp_Boat

-A Special Program on Regulation Related to the Use of Recycled Plastics in Food Contact Applications: Manufacturers and brand owners are increasingly demanding that their suppliers find ways to make their products and materials more environmentally-friendly. This opens up a new regime of requirements that suppliers have to comply with in addition to the existing food contact regulations they already have to navigate every day. Led by presentations from Jeff Wooster, global sustainability leader, performance packaging at Dow Chemical, and Dr. Forrest Bayer, Bayer Consulting & UW Imaging LLC, and enhanced by additional discussions on emerging technologies designed to make using post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials easier, this panel was full of tips and insights that attendees could put to use immediately, to start working PCR into their products and meeting brand owner-driven sustainability requirements.

FDCPMC_IntlSymp_HarborView-So many more relevant sessions and opportunities to network with experts in the field!

The International Symposium will be back in 2017, but in the meantime, SPI’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee (FDCPMC) offers members these opportunities throughout the year. Click here to learn more about what this committee can offer your company.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

California Industrial General Permit Enrollment Deadline Extended

California’s State Water Resources Control Board recently shared this alert:

NOTICE - As you likely have observed, the State Water Resources Control Boards’ (State Water Board) SMARTS Storm Water Program database is limiting new enrollments or annual submittals from existing enrollees as required by the Statewide Industrial General Storm Water Permit (IGP). State Water Board staff have identified a technical issue that is affecting bandwidth of the system and restricting access to the database. Due to these challenges, the July 1, 2015 deadline for enrollment under IGP Permit 2014-0057-DWQ, adopted by the State Water Board on April 1, 2014, and the deadline for submittals under the now expired IGP Permit 97-03-DWQ have both been extended to close of business on Friday, August 14, 2015. This database access issue does not impact saved work items in SMARTS. If you have any questions or need customer assistance, our staff will be available to assist you during our normal business hours – Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.”

A view of Sacramento, Calif.

A view of Sacramento, Calif.

SPI had earlier submitted comments to the Board speaking to the material handling requirements for facilities using resin pellets. We reiterated industry’s support for the employment of best management practices (BMPs) as prescribed by Operation Clean Sweep® in preventing the unwarranted release of pellets into the environment. Members are again strongly encouraged to review any BMPs they have in place related to resin pellets and make any necessary adjustments. Read more of SPI’s coverage here and here.