Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

House Energy & Commerce Committee Unanimously Advances TSCA Reform to Full House of Representatives

CongressSunriseViewThe House Energy & Commerce Committee voted to advance the SPI-backed H.R. 2576, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Modernization Act of 2015, Wednesday. The final vote to move the bill from the Committee to the full House of Representatives was 47-0 with one abstention.

Only one amendment was added during the committee’s markup, a small set of technical fixes and edits filed by bill sponsor John Shimkus (R-IL). Another amendment, put forth by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) that aimed to clarify the bill’s language governing the preemption of state-level chemical regulations, was also considered by the committee but ultimately withdrawn in favor of moving the bill forward.

H.R. 2576 would prevent a patchwork of overlapping and conflictual state-level rules governing chemical production and use. It would modernize the system by which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assesses risks, and also establish protections for companies’ confidential business information (CBI).

The original TSCA was enacted in 1976 and hasn’t been substantially amended since. The TSCA Modernization Act is one of two bipartisan efforts put forth by the 114th Congress to update the nearly 40-year-old legislation, the other being S. 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April.

SPI has made TSCA reform a significant priority and continues to engage legislators and industry partners as we pursue reform that updates the regulatory infrastructure without overburdening the plastics industry with overly-rigid rules and reporting requirements.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

SPI Recognizes CPR for Its Outstanding Performance as the Official Recycler of NPE2015

NPE2015 ended nearly three months ago but SPI continues to recognize all of the parties that helped make this year’s international plastics showcase the largest, most international and most sustainable NPE in history. Recently SPI CEO and President Bill Carteaux and VP of Member Services Mark Garrison visited the Tampa, Fla.-based offices of Commercial Plastics Recycling, Inc. (CPR) to present the company and its team with a plaque recognizing them for their partnership and performance during NPE2015.

CPRVisit_Group_BlogSize

CPRVisit_BlogSize

During the show, which ran from March 23-27 in Orlando, Fla., CPR collected, sorted and recycled an astounding 191 tons of processing scrap, 62 percent more than was collected at NPE2012 and 235 percent more than at NPE2009. Altogether NPE2015 generated 518 tons of waste at the Orange County Convention Center, including both processing scrap and post-consumer waste. Of that, 452 tons, or 87 percent, was recycled.

SPI thanks CPR for its outstanding work during NPE2015 and looks forward to relying on the company’s insights to make the next NPE (NPE2018) an even greater success!

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Millennials in Plastics

A guest post by Michael Stark, divisional manager, material handling and auxiliaries at Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc. and chairman of SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP). Originally published on LinkedIn.

FLiP_logo-2Where did they go? With a decade of traveling for and working in the plastics industry under my own millennial belt, I must say, my peers are hard to find and I start to wonder why. Was it our upbringing and a bias towards an office job developing the next app for our phones? Or trading dollars and cents at some financial organization? Were those careers considered “sexier” for us? Did baby boomers raise us to turn our backs on manufacturing?

I look back at my own introduction into plastics—a summer internship through a family member at a plastics manufacturer. At the time I thought “it’s a job and the money is good.” I really had no idea what this industry was. On day one of this internship, I found myself standing in front of a sub-ten second cycling, over one thousand-ton machine, producing over one hundred parts per cycle. I will never forget the sound, the sight, and the feeling I had. The hair stood up on my arms; goose bumps from watching. It was tons of steel, moving fast, with complex automation and programming, an awe inspiring display of mechanics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. Since that day I have been addicted to this industry, in which I have spent over the last decade building my career, and what a great career it’s been.  If it were not for the family member that got me the internship, I would have never have had the exposure, never had this career.

I’ve asked the few millennial peers I’ve met in this industry and it’s the same story—it was a family member, a friend, or a family business that led them to plastics. I say thank you for those who got us into this industry, because we enjoy it. But in the same breath, your recruiting effort fell short by a long shot; it didn’t do enough.

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman and Divisional Manager, Material Handling and Auxiliaries at Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc.

I just read an article about Millennials representing over one third our labor pool; overcoming Gen X’ers and the now retiring baby boomers. But in the plastics industry I just don’t see it. What I see is a significant labor shortage that is eminent in the next decade, and what’s to be done about it? Offshore our efforts even more? What ever happened to the excitement of making something tangible for a living in this country? Did our parents leave this out of our upbringing? If building and programming highly complex robotics is not “sexy”, if producing lifesaving medical components and devices, cutting edge light weight cars, biodegradable materials, or the next big consumer product is not “sexy” to at least some of us Millennials, then what is?

So where did all my fellow Millennials go? Why did you not consider this industry? Did you not know it existed? Because if so, we as an industry need to fix that and fast.

Trust me, it is not a dark and dingy industry. If that’s your reason, then you need to see it for yourself. Or perhaps I’ll film a movie “The Wolf of Plastics” to bring the sexy back. We need skilled people, technical people, business people, and everything in between. We need younger generations to bring the spirit back to making things. We need you.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

House Environment and Economy Subcommittee Unanimously Advances TSCA Reform to Full Energy and Commerce Committee

U.S. CapitolThe House Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy voted unanimously to advance the SPI-backed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Modernization Act of 2015 Thursday.

The bill would prevent a patchwork of overlapping and conflictual state-level rules governing chemical production and use. It would modernize the system by which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assesses risks, and also establish protections for companies’ confidential business information (CBI).

Only one amendment was added during Thursday’s markup, a small technical fix put forth by Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) that was added without objection. The final vote in favor of advancing the TSCA Modernization Act was 21-0. The bill now heads to the full Committee for consideration.

The original TSCA was enacted in 1976 and hasn’t been substantially amended since. The TSCA Modernization Act is one of two bipartisan efforts put forth by the 114th Congress to update the nearly 40-year-old legislation, the other being S. 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April.

SPI has made TSCA reform a significant priority and continues to engage legislators and industry partners as we pursue reform that updates the regulatory infrastructure without overburdening the plastics industry with overly-rigid rules and reporting requirements.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Turning the Tide on Plastic Bag Bans and Taxes

Over the last 10 years environmental activists have attempted to portray plastic bag bans and taxes as good for the environment. And until recently, they have been successful in their efforts to promote bag bans and taxes, because their claims haven’t been subjected to scrutiny. That’s why the APBA exists: to provide the facts and reveal the activists’ claims to be what they really are—myths.

apba-logoEdgeThere’s a reason that activists have pursued bag bans and taxes at the state and local levels. It’s because these municipal governing bodies historically have less time and energy to spend delving into the unexpected consequences of a certain act or ordinance—operating, in the famous words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, as “laboratories of democracy” and enacting experimental policies.

This type of legislation serves a vital purpose in American democracy, but there is a side effect. It is that bad policies often get passed without the appropriate questions being asked, and environmental activists have taken advantage of this fact. Based on the erroneous and wholly baseless assumption that all plastics are bad—and hinging on the equally false misconception that plastic bags are a major component of litter, state and local legislators have been persuaded by environmental activists to enact policies based on these misguided principles.

There are four questions every state and local legislature should ask about any proposed policy, questions that would reveal the hollow core at the heart of every argument in favor of a plastic bag ban or tax: Is this necessary? Will this be effective? Is this popular? What will be the outcome?

Is this necessary?

Plastic bags traditionally constitute about one percent of litter in most of the U.S. and, according to the EPA, represent only 0.4 percent of the municipal waste stream. No amount of litter is acceptable, but it is crucial that legislators understand that plastic bags are not a significant component of litter and that this is a behavioral rather than material issue. A smarter policy approach would be to educate consumers to change their behavior rather than to unfairly target a single recyclable material. Further, the fact that plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable makes it hard to argue that banning or taxing them is necessary. An effective end-of-life solution already exists.

Will this be effective?plastic shopping bags in use

Because plastic bags are a fraction of litter and an even smaller component of the municipal waste stream, any attempt to ban or tax them is unlikely to move the needle on litter or landfills. Why use a sledgehammer when a scalpel will do? If state and local legislators are serious about promoting thoughtful and effective environmental policy, they can organize litter cleanups and promote recycling and recycling education. Bag bans and taxes don’t work. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from Huntington Beach, California proves this, and that’s why the city repealed its ordinance.

Is this popular?

Ask any of the many municipalities (Homer, Alaska; Basalt, Snowmass, Durango and Fort Collins, Colorado; Darien, Connecticut and Newport, Oregon) that have reversed their ordinances following public input or outcry. Or, look at the disastrous implementation of Dallas’ bag tax and the opinions of residents frustrated by the city’s hastily-enacted and poorly-considered regulation. You also could look to the reaction to California’s statewide bag ban: in less than 90 days the APBA collected the signatures of over 800,000 of California voters who oppose the legislation. In general, plastic bag bans and taxes aren’t popular.

The Anacostia River

The Anacostia River

What is the outcome?

As the Washington Post recently reported, the government of the District of Columbia has made about $10 million in revenue from its bag tax. It is clear that the revenue generated is not going to serve the stated purpose of the ordinance. Funds have been used to pay for things like field trips and personnel expenses instead of on Anacostia River cleanup. And there are other unintended consequences of bag bans and taxes: numerous cities with ordinances have seen an uptick in reported theft from stores; trash bag purchases tend go up in municipalities with ordinances because people can’t reuse their plastic retail bags; according to the NCPA, commerce is displaced from businesses operating in areas with plastic bag bans and taxes to businesses operating just outside of the perimeter that still offer plastic bags at no cost; and, reusable bags largely go unwashed and thereby transmit infectious foodborne diseases. All of these are outcomes of bag bans and taxes, and there’s no actual reduction in litter or a change in the makeup of local landfills.

Conclusions

When plastic bag bans and taxes were first promoted by activists, few legislators asked the right questions. But now state and local governments and the media are beginning to push back, and the tide is turning against bans and taxes.  That’s what SPI and the APBA have been saying all along: that plastic bag bans and taxes are not thoughtful or effective environmental policies, and we’re glad others are seeing the light.