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.

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Manufacturing a Promising Future for Our Children

By Paula Hynes, Communications Coordinator, The Rodon Group

Every week, there is a news story about the lack of skilled workers to fill employment opportunities in the manufacturing sector.  How did we get to this point?    Many that could fill these spots went off to college and spent four years and thousands of dollars to gain the credentials needed to land a well-paying job.  Unfortunately, the outcome often didn’t meet the expectation.MFD logo

According to a recent study by Career Builder, nearly one-third of college graduates are not employed in their field of study.  And, 47% said their first job after graduation was not related to their major.  Many graduates find out too late that either their specialty is not in demand, or they need an advanced degree to get a job.  This trend leaves many job seekers with degrees that go underutilized.

Professional, skilled trade opportunities

However, there is still a great deal of employment opportunity. A recent USA Today analysis of data from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. and CareerBuilder estimates that by 2017, nearly 2.5 new skilled jobs will be added to the economy.  These jobs are described as “middle-skilled” opportunities.  They require technical training, but not a four-year degree.  These are well-paid jobs that offer long-term stability.

This resurgence in our manufacturing sector employment along with the rising cost of a college education has gotten the attention of public school administrators, trade groups, and government agencies.  The need for workers with professional trade skills has begun to shift the career paradigm.  Students as well as parents are the focus of outreach programs that help engage and inform the public about manufacturing opportunities.

Focusing on tomorrow’s manufacturing workers 

In 2012, a group of industry associations in collaboration with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership worked to develop a game plan for getting the word out about manufacturing careers.  The Fabricator & Manufacturers Association International®, National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute, felt one of the best ways to get kids excited about manufacturing was to show them manufacturing in action.  So, they put together a plan and a website to enlist manufacturers to open the doors of their facilities for tours, seminars, and other educational activities.  They called the event Manufacturing.  The stated goals of the event are: promoting manufacturers and skilled employment, expanding industry knowledge, and connecting with families, educators, associations & media for the betterment of manufacturing.

The Rodon Group was one of the first companies to sign-up.  One of our corporate mandates is to support and promote American manufacturing.  As a member of American Made Matters, a consortium of U.S. manufacturing companies, we wanted to be on the forefront of this movement.  And, we hoped a nationwide day promoting manufacturing would generate excitement.  Let’s face it, manufacturing has gotten a great deal of bad press in the past.  Many still think of old grimy sweatshops as the norm.  By opening our doors to students, teachers, faculty and the community we had the opportunity to challenge these perceptions first hand.  Most manufacturing companies today are bright, clean working environments that rely on automation and technology to run most of the operations.  The jobs in these companies are far from the manual labor of the past.  They require skilled professionals to operate the factory infrastructure.

Manufacturing Day is making a difference.

StudentsIn 2012, when Manufacturing Day began, there were a little over 200 companies participating throughout the country.  In 2013, that number grew to 830.  And by 2014, there were nearly 1,700 participating companies.  This exponential growth was a result of lots of attention and interest in American manufacturing and the skills gap that exists in our workforce.  By engaging  local communities, companies can show students and parents the opportunities available in the high-tech manufacturing factory of today.  In fact, Rodon has hired a few of these students..   And we often have technical school students working as paid interns during their summer hiatus from the classroom.  These students had either attended a Manufacturing Day event or participated in one of the school tours we give throughout the year.

We have also created a lot of media exposure for the company through promoting these events.  Last year, we hosted several high-ranking administrators from the Commerce Department as well as local legislators.  In 2012, several weeks after our Manufacturing Day event, we hosted President Obama, who was promoting fiscal policies.  Certainly, the added exposure we have received over the years has helped increase our brand recognition as a leading U.S. plastic injection molder.

Making things is cool

It’s clear that making things in the U.S. is cool again.  Consumers, legislators and businesses all realize the important role manufacturing plays in our economy.

Here are some interesting highlights from the National Association of Manufacturers “Facts About Manufacturing”:

  • The most recent statistics reveal manufacturers contributed $2.09 trillion to the economy, up from $2.03 trillion in 2012. This was 12.0 percent of GDP.1  For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.37 is added to the economy, the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.2
  • Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States—about one in six private-sector jobs. More than 12 million Americans (or 9 percent of the workforce) are employed directly in manufacturing.3
  • In 2013, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,506 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all industries earned $62,546.4
  • Manufacturers in the United States are the most productive in the world, far surpassing the worker productivity of any other major manufacturing economy, leading to higher wages and living standards.5
  • Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.6
  • Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the 9th largest economy in the world.  

(See sources below)

Mark your calendars

Manufacturing Day is always held on the first Friday in October.  This year the event falls on October 2, 2015.  Of course, The Rodon Group has already signed up, and we encourage all manufacturing companies to join us in this national event (link to MFG Day).  SPI, the Plastics Industry Trade Association, is a sponsor of MFG Day this year and is helping to promote other plastic processors like Rodon to get involved in the event.  Let’s work together to change the perceptions about manufacturing careers and promote our U.S. made products.

Watch this video to learn more. Follow MFG Day on Twitter @MFGDay and #MFGDay15



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Sources for National Association of Manufacturers “Facts about Manufacturing”:

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Industry Economic Accounts (2014).

2 Bureau of Economic Analysis, Industry Input-Output Tables (2013).

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), with estimate of total employment supported by manufacturing calculated by NAM using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (2013, 2014).

4 Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Economic Accounts by Industry (2013).

5 NAM calculations based on data from the United NationsBureau of Labor Statistics and the International Labour Organization.

6 Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Economic Accounts by Industry (2013).

7 Bureau of Economic Analysis, Industry Economic Accounts (2014) and International Monetary Fund (2013).

- See more at:

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Women in Manufacturing: From Rosie the Riveter to Rose the CEO

By Jill Worth, Marketing and Communications Specialist, The Rodon Group

My grandmother, Celia Shulman worked in the same factory in Philadelphia for 40 years. She made transistors for radios, TV’s and other electronics. She painted stripes on the transistors and worked in the shipping department at night. She never complained about her job and was proud to be able to go to work every day and support her family as a single mother. It was an honorable career then, and for many women in manufacturing today, still is. Rosie


Friday, July 31st, 2015

Getting Real about Marine Debris

Coral reef and the IslandAn environmental problem of the seriousness and enormity of marine debris can easily overwhelm companies and individuals into inaction. “I’m just a small manufacturer,” you can hear a business owner saying to themselves. “There’s very little I can do to make a difference.” It can be easy to slip into this mentality, but the truth is that the small steps we all take add up to a much bigger, positive effect. This is true about all large-scale issues, including marine debris.

Some of these steps can be taken within the gates of our manufacturing facilities, and some can be directed at consumer behavior. The former is often the simplest, but you might be wondering, “how can I impact the world outside of my facility?” To answer this question, SPI worked with other industry partners to create the proven and effective program known as Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), a program aimed at mitigating pellet loss from the manufacturing environment. Pellets in the ocean are a real and documented problem, but since the implementation of OCS, scientists have actually measured a decline in the presence of these pellets. No single company could have accomplished this. Rather, this decline is a perfect example of how everyone’s small efforts can add up to a larger solution. OCS is a first step that all plastics-handling companies can take in the right direction, before graduating to other collaborative efforts that companies and associations like SPI can take that enable the cause of eliminating marine debris to leap forward.OCS logo

Once companies take action within their facilities, they can focus on other additional opportunities to have an impact on marine debris issues. These come in two areas: supporting further recovery of plastics at end-of-life to help mitigate litter, and actually being part of beach cleanup efforts. “SPI is proud to have contributed” to the cause of fighting marine debris, said SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux in a statement earlier this year that highlighted SPI’s efforts, all of which are directly supported by its membership. “But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials. 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.”

In short, an industry committing itself to the kind of environmental stewardship exemplified by OCS and the plastics industry’s other efforts to erase marine debris is all well and good, but failing to engage the consumer in these efforts only limits the possibilities for what can be achieved. The more strongly the industry can enlist consumers in its efforts, the faster the results will arrive, the more visible they’ll be and the longer they’ll last.

So, while companies shouldn’t be discouraged out of acting by the severity of marine debris, it’s safe to say that working to combat it can be a complex task. To demystify the problem and give companies the tools they need to join the fight against marine debris, SPI will host a webinar August 6 at 1 p.m. EST titled “Marine Debris: Where We Stand, and What We Can Do.” As the title suggests, the program will feature both the latest figures on marine debris as well as the numerous opportunities the industry currently has to get involved in international coastal cleanup efforts. It will also give companies that might not think OCS could apply to them (i.e. recyclers) a background on how they can start implementing these important rules to prevent the loss of plastic materials at all facilities, not just plastics manufacturing or processing plants.FriendlyTurtle_Web

“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,” Carteaux said. “By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source.” We hope you’ll join us and your peers to tackle one of our generation’s greatest environmental challenges while moving your industry, and your company forward at the same time.