Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

A Simple Shift in Shipping Regulations Could Net the American Economy $27 Billion in Annual Savings

Truck in portThe shipping economy operates adjacent to the manufacturing economy, and increased efficiency in either can often yield benefits in both. The advent of plastic materials decades ago enabled trucks to carry more products for longer, all while using only a fraction of the fuel because of the lightness of plastic materials.

That’s just one example, and the industries have traded innovations back and forth for decades. Most recently, however, a new industry group comprised of some of the biggest names in the shipping world is doing its best to save manufacturers money. The Coalition for Efficient & Responsible Trucking (CERT) counts Conway, Estes Express Lines, and UPS as members, among several others. The group has only one goal: a five-foot increase in the maximum length of trailers used in double configurations, from 28 feet, to 33 feet.

The idea is elegant in its simplicity, but could still have wide-ranging effects on a multitude of sectors. According to CERT, under the current 28-foot limit, trucks routinely “cube out before they gross out,” which is to say they fill all of their available volume long before they brush up against the 80,000 lbs. gross weight limit. This, simply put, makes shipping much less efficient, and saddles businesses with $27 billion per year in avoidable, additional shipping costs. Congressional authorization to extend the trailer length to 33 feet could put those costs back in the pockets’ of companies and consumers.

It’s a practical solution arriving at just the right time for the shipping economy and those industries that depend on it. “Every year, millions of tons in goods are sent across roads in shipments that don’t quite fit in a 28-ft. trailer, but aren’t nearly enough to require a full 48-ft. or 53-ft. trailer,” CERT says in a fact sheet. “As a result, more than 6.6 million avoidable truck trips occur every year. This inefficiency is only expected to worsen: over the next decade, less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments will grow from 145 million tons to an estimated 204.6 million tons.” Before that happens, however, CERT, SPI and its other industry partners are hoping Congress authorizes the five-foot extension.

More than just reducing inefficiencies and putting $27 billion back into the economy, CERT’s suggested legislative fix will also yield significant environmental benefits. By eliminating those 6.6 million unnecessary truck trips that currently happen each year because of the currently outdated regulations, extending the length of the trucks would result in 204 million fewer gallons of fuel being used by trucks, and reduce carbon emissions by 4.4 billion pounds per year.

If you need any more reason to support CERT, on their website they note that their simple suggested legislative change would eliminate 1.3 billion miles in truck traffic nationwide, making the 42 percent of the nation’s highways that are congested much clearer, and preventing 912 crashes annually.

SPI supports CERT’s plan and stands behind their efforts. The entire $375-billion plastics industry stands behind them and looks forward to repaying the favor through innovation.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: SPI Adopts Block in Front of its DC Headquarters in Honor of Earth Day 2015

EarthSPI took the adage “Think Globally, Act Locally” to heart this Earth Day by adopting the block where its DC headquarters are located as part of Washington DC’s Clean City Initiative.

After moving its Washington offices to 1425 K St. NW, located in the heart of downtown DC near the White House and National Mall, SPI decided to put its money where its mouth is: under the Adopt-A-Block Program, SPI will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the north side of K Street NW, between 14th and 15th streets.

Taking part in Washington’s effort to curtail pollution emphasizes SPI’s desire to operate as a national trade association that’s invested in the community,” said William R. Carteaux, SPI president and CEO. “We advocate for responsible management of resources while minimizing the environmental impact—and that starts with our block. Through this program, SPI will collect trash and ensure that what’s suitable for recycling is appropriately separated and recycled.”

As part of its commitment to the Adopt-A-Block Program, SPI will be responsible for conducting a quarterly clean-up day complemented by weekly litter pickups throughout the next two years. The city encourages residents and businesses to become active in neighborhood beautification programs to improve the quality of life in Washington and to work toward discouraging unwanted, illegal activity.

“Teamwork between government and citizens is key,” said Wilson Reynolds, director of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of the Clean City. “By involving residents in each community, we can maintain a beautiful living and business environment. We believe that success begins with one citizen and one community deciding to make a difference, and we welcome SPI to our family of sponsors.”clean_city_logo

“It’s a privilege to work in a city that takes pride in its appearance and encourages participation among the business and residential communities in maintaining a healthy, livable environment,” Carteaux added. “We recognize that a corporate-government partnership is critical to this effort, therefore we’re proud to enter a relationship with Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of the Clean City to contribute to the appearance of our nation’s capital.”

Additional information on the Adopt-A-Block program may be obtained by consulting the Adopt-A-Block Program Guide or by contacting Washington DC city offices at (202) 724-8967.

Monday, April 20th, 2015

On Earth Day, a Chance to Tell the Plastics Industry’s Sustainability Story

There’s a difference between the way people in plastics view themselves and the way people outside of plastics view the industry. To bridge the gap between those two views, the plastics industry has to tell the general public the things it already knows: that plastics has played a vital role in supporting environmental stewardship, that the industry continues to play that role today, from its day-to-day operations to its forward-thinking innovations, and that it’s continually working on ways to make life in the future longer, cleaner and greener than it’s ever been before.

Earth-NASA-2The plastics industry has countless sustainability stories, and SPI knows its members are the ones to tell them. That’s why SPI and the SPI Recycling Committee launched the Sustainability Benchmarking survey in January, the results of which will go on to create the Sustainability Benchmark Tool, which plastics companies will be able to use in the future to see how green they are, and how they can be greener. An informational webinar on the survey and the effort will be hosted on Earth Day, April 22, offering all plastics companies a perfect, timely chance to do their part telling their industry’s environmental story.

“As the 3rd largest manufacturing sector in the United States, the plastics industry has a great economic story to tell, but we also have an important environmental story to tell as well,” said SPI Chairman of the Board of Directors Fred Daniell, president of Kureha America LLC. “The industry is achieving environmental success through the sustainability benefits of our products and the strides the industry is taking to ensure the manufacturing of those products are done in a way that is efficient and minimizes the environmental impacts where possible.”

But instead of just being another voice in the crowd, SPI needs good, hard information from its members in order to truly tell a sustainability story that leaves an impression, and doesn’t falter when critiqued. “We know the industry has good stories, but we need the data to be able to tell that story,” said SPI Senior Director of Recycling and Diversion Kim Holmes. “This is what we’ll capture in the Sustainability Benchmarking Tool effort.”

Daniell echoed Holmes, noting that “the information gathered through this effort will give us the data we need to tell that positive environmental story and shape the conversations about our industry,” he said. “Our advocacy at SPI is based on sound science, and science is based on data. We need your help to build the database necessary to turn our anecdotal debate into data-driven policy.”

PrintDoing your part to communicate the industry’s environmental success stories will afford your company a number of direct benefits, including:

  • Benchmarking your company’s sustainability practices,
  • Undertaking an inventory of sustainability activities if your company has not yet done this,
  • Generating varying levels of reports through the tool to share with customers, or being the critical first step in generating your own corporate sustainability report,
  • Identifying areas of success and opportunities for improvement,
  • Having the information to tell about your own sustainability activities to your employees, community and customers.

But participation in the Sustainability Benchmark Tool survey will yield its own benefits in the form of a potent instrument for illustrating all the good that plastics do for the environment each and every day. In an age of constant cultural sharing and storytelling, it’s often the loudest, clearest voice that cuts through the clutter and makes a lasting impact on public perception. For the sake of all the plastics industry has done, and will do to make life more sustainable, efficient and environmentally sound, we hope you’ll join us in this effort to speak as one industry, sharing the story of all the environmental benefits that plastic provides.

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.