Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Plastic Bottles Shed Light on Needy Families

This article originally appeared on the Plastics Makes it Possible Facebook Page

In the impoverished neighborhoods in and around Manila, Philippines, millions of people live in darkness in their homes—even in the daytime. Electricity is often too expensive, and windows are a building expense that many cannot afford.

To change this, a local social entrepreneur has created a program calledPMIP Photo 73114
A Liter of Light that illuminates the homes of underprivileged families by creating solar-powered light bulbs from a resource some may find surprising: used plastic soft drink bottles.

Volunteers for A Liter of Light begin by gathering discarded, clear plastic bottles. The volunteers then fill each bottle with water and a few drops of chlorine bleach (to retard algae growth). They then fit the bottle snugly into a custom-cut hole in the roof of a home, with the bottom of the bottle extending down into the room below. This allows the clear plastic bottle and water to refract the sun’s rays and scatter light into the house. A silicone plastic sealant applied to the roof and bottle prevents water leaks during rainy tropical weather.

On a sunny day, this simple device can produce approximately 50 watts of light in an otherwise dark room.

Because plastics are lightweight and durable, the bottle lights are easy to install and are expected to last more than five years. And the materials to produce the lights cost very little—or nothing, in the case of discarded bottles gathered by volunteers—which makes it possible for A Liter of Light to help many, many people. The program envisions installing plastic bottle lights in one million homes by the end of 2012.

In an area in which some households earn less than a dollar a day, the plastic bottle lights reduce household expenses, as well as the fire hazards associated with faulty electrical wiring and candles. And when the lights need to be replaced, the plastic bottles can be recycled and new solar lights can be installed for little or no cost.

People often find creative ways to reuse plastic products. These new uses can be practical (such as reusing a plastic grocery bag as a trash can liner), or they can be fun (like making a Halloween costume out of plastic bottles). And sometimes, they can help improve people’s lives by creating a solution to a big problem—in this case, “a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly bottle bulb to low-income communities nationwide.”

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

State Department Tackles Marine Debris, Invites SPI into Discussion

By Mike Verespej, SPI Special Correspondent

The Our Oceans conference did more than just call attention to the need to protect the world’s oceans. It also made it clear that all countries and groups, including the plastics manufacturing industry, need to continue to be part of the solution.

“The ad hoc approach we have today with each nation and community pursuing its own independent policy simply will not suffice,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in his keynote address. “We are not going to meet this challenge unless … the entire world comes together to try to change course and protect the ocean from unsustainable fishing practices, unprecedented pollution, or the devastating effects of climate change.”Our Ocean

“There are a lot of challenges staring us in the face and we need to act on them,” said SPI president and CEO Bill Carteaux, who attended the invitation-only meeting this past June in Washington. “Getting the invitation to go was certainly a feather in our cap and recognition by the State Department that the plastics industry is not just part of the problem, but part of the solution, and needs to be in the discussion.”

Carteaux believes SPI’s presence at the conference will help develop relationships with non-government organizations (NGO) that might not have been otherwise possible.

“It has given us a platform to connect with NGOs and begin to develop projects with them,” he said. “We already have meetings set up with several NGOs. It is heartening to me that people want our help and want us to work with them.”

In addition, SPI and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) will meet this year with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to address marine debris issues.

More than 60 plastics associations representing 34 countries have more than 185 projects underway to address marine debris—part of an initiative that began in March 2011.

Those initiatives include the Operation Clean Sweep plastic pellet containment program that SPI and ACC have taken globally to 14 countries and

“It is still early, and no one has all the answers to tackling marine debris, but we are making progress,” said Carteaux. “One of the keys is to attack it and get people to dispose of things properly. A number of people at the conference came up to me and said ‘I’m glad you’re here because the plastics industry isn’t the problem, it’s an issue of people not disposing things properly.’”

“We want to push recycling and collection around the world, and push new uses for recycled material,” he said, “because if we do that, plastics won’t end up in wastewater and in oceans.”

Nestle Waters North America also believes “recycling is the cornerstone of sustainable packaging”—and solving the marine debris problem.

“Policy and action can work together to help advance stewardship of the oceans and all waterways,” said Brian Flaherty, vice president of public policy and external affairs for Nestle Waters North America, who addressed the issue of marine debris in a presentation at the conference. “We need to stop plastics from entering our oceans in the first place. The global challenge of marine debris that we are talking about here today is massive in scope. It is going to take all stakeholders coming together and making commitments to identify and implement solutions.

“The lessons we’ve learned are be humble, listen, learn and evolve,” said Flaherty. “Think big, take the first step and be transparent on how you’re doing.”

Carteaux said he walked away from the conference with at least three projects SPI can immediately work on:

  • Get other countries to allow the use of post-consumer recycled resin in food packaging, similar to the approach of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Campaign for tax credits for the use of recycled resin.  “If we can develop the markets, we can get the supply.”
  • Solve the challenge to recycling that comes from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles that have polypropylene caps.

“Addressing those things would have a significant impact on what’s going on and begin to solve some of the issues that lead to marine debris,” he said.

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Pursuing Zero Waste Drives SPI to Join National Effort to Increase Recycling

By Kim Holmes, SPI, Director, Recycling and Diversion

As part of its mission to pursue zero waste, SPI has joined other top organizations as an inaugural member of the Recycling Partnership, a grant fund established by the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP) to support and transform public recycling performance.

Selected communities will use grant funding to:

  • purchase roll carts for curbside collection
  • provide technical assistance with program implementation and improvements
  • help advocate the economic value of the recycling industry to decision makers
  • create educational tools for residents

Working alongside the likes of the American Chemistry Council, Alcoa Foundation and Coca-Cola, SPI will serve on the Recycling Partnership’s Advisory Committee as a voting member. In this role, SPI will advocate for expansion of programs in communities that have the capability to maximize recovery of plastic products including rigids, thermoforms and other non-bottle packaging materials.

SPI has emerged as an important stakeholder in the recycling discussion offering a unique perspective as its members represent the entire plastics supply chain. Its highly-active Recycling Committee is working on programs that raise awareness about the demand for material, the recoverability of new feedstreams and the advancement of technologies that improve quality of material.trash cans

Since SPI’s members’ expertise is in processing, recycling and manufacturing rather than collection, the organization has not created unique programming in this area. However, identifying opportunities to influence collection in ways that support the work of SPI’s members is of high importance. Joining the Recycling Partnership presents the right opportunity to proactively cultivate collection programs in a way that reflects the industry’s goals in a tangible, measurable way.

The Recycling Partnership’s purpose and mission line up with SPI’s goals to support stronger plastics recycling partnerships across the country. By assessing the overall health of the recycling infrastructure, identifying the barriers to recycling, and building a to-do list around those barriers, the Recycling Partnership will create a new framework of public-private collaboration to improve the recycling infrastructure.

Overseen by CVP, in the first year at least three southeastern communities will receive one-time grants. Data and other information collected in the first round will serve as benchmarks to guide the partnership through its national expansion in the next two to five years. Projections show that work in 10 communities could result in a 1 billion pound increase of recovered recyclables.

Other members of the Recycling Partnership are the American Forest & Paper Association, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, Ball Corporation and Carton Council.

ABOUT THE CURBSIDE VALUE PARTNERSHIP

The Curbside Value Partnership (CVP) is a 501(c)(3) organization designed to grow participation in curbside recycling programs nationwide. For more information, visit http://www.recyclecurbside.org/.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Chicago Plastic Bag Ban Leaves Consumers Holding the (paper) Bag

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

Families in Chicago, plastics industry workers and consumers will be impacted after the City Council passed a partial plastic bag ban on April 30, forcing many city businesses to go back to the more expensive and heavier paper bags, which are not as environmentally friendly as once thought.

By banning plastic bags, consumers in Chicago and other cities where plastic bags have or will be banned in the future will be going back to heavier and bulkier paper bags or reusable bags. In addition to the job loss associated with a ban on plastic bags, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, is also concerned about replacing plastic with paper and reusable bags that are not consumer and environmentally friendly.

Here are some facts about paper, as reported by the American Progressive Bag Alliance:

Less material means less waste and fewer emissions.

  • Plastic bags generate 80% less waste than paper bags.
  • Plastic bags generate only 50% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of composted paper bags.
  • The production of plastic bags consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags.
  • A typical plastic bag weighs 4-5 grams and can hold up to 17 pounds—nearly 2,000 times its own weight.
  • Plastic grocery bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags, and produce half the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
  • Plastic bags take up 85 percent less space than paper bags in landfills.
  • During their life cycle, plastic bags require about one-third less energy to make than paper bags. Plastic grocery bags are an extremely resource-efficient multi-use plastic bag choice.
  • For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags, helping to save energy and reduce emissions.
  • It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it does to recycle a pound of paper.
  • By using plastics in their packaging, product manufacturers save enough energy every year to power a city of 1 million homes for 3-1/2 years.

In addition to recycling, a recent national survey shows that over 90% of Americans reuse their plastic bags. About 65% of Americans reuse their bags for trash disposal. Other common uses include lunch bags and pet pick-up. In this regard, the reuse of a plastic shopping bag prevents a second bag from being purchased to fulfill these necessary functions.   These replacement bags are often thicker, bigger and intended to go to the landfill, meaning the unintended consequence is that more plastic is going into the landfill.

A look at other areas in the country where rules on plastic bags were implemented recently shows that bans and taxes don’t work.

  • A ban or tax would make no difference in litter reduction since plastic bags only make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5 percent) of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.
  • In October 2010 along North Carolina’s Outer Banks area, the North Carolina Solid Waste and Management Annual Report for FY 2010-2011 reported that a correlation between the law and the number of bags collected is not apparent.
  • According to a study from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), a ban on plastic bags can negatively impact retail sales in the ban area as well, shifting business to stores just outside the bag ban region. For example, in Los Angeles County, a survey taken one year after a plastic bag band was implemented revealed that the majority of stores surveyed in areas with a ban reported an overall average sales decline of nearly 6 percent while the majority of respondents surveyed in areas without a ban reported an overall average sales growth of 9 percent.

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Chicago City Officials Vote Against American Manufacturing, 30,000 Jobs in Jeopardy

By Lee Califf, Executive Director, American Progressive Bag Alliance

Plastics industry jobs in Illinois suffered a blow on April 24 when the Chicago City Council’s environmental committee unanimously passed a partial plastic bag ban in the city. The measure is scheduled to go before the full city council this week before it is official.

This is a concern of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, who cites the jobs created from the plastics industry as a major plus for America’s economic recovery. The plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector in the United States employs 30,800 people in 349 communities across the country. That’s a significant number of people in the total 900,000 employed by the U.S. plastics industry.

The plastics industry impact in Chicago is a snapshot of the entire country. An in-depth data analysis of the plastics industry’s 2012 performance globally and in the U.S. is detailed in the newly released reports titled, “The Definition, Size and Impact of the U.S. Plastics Industry,” and “Global Business Trends, Partners, Hot Products.”

The report contained the following numbers:

  • $41.7 billion – the U.S. plastics industry’s payroll in 2012
  • 1.4 million – the number of jobs attributed to the plastics industry when suppliers are added
  • $456 billion – the total U.S. shipments attributed to the plastics industry when suppliers are added
  • 6.7 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in the U.S. are in the plastics industry
  • 15.8 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Michigan are in the plastics industry
  • 15.4 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Indiana are in the plastics industry
  • 13.3 of every 1,000 non-farm jobs – in Ohio are in the plastics industry
  • 1 – California (because it is the largest state) has the most plastics industry employees (74,000)
  • 50 – number of states where plastics industry employees and manufacturing activities are found

SPI’s economic reports are free of charge for members. For non-members, the cost of each report is $395. Both reports may be downloaded at http://www.plasticsindustry.org/store