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

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Mend it like Beckham with a Plastics Air Boot

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

We’ve all seen the impact plastics has in the medical arena, but the role plastics play in a medical situation really hit home at SPI recently when our own Tracy Cullen, the senior vice president of communications and marketing, had a fall and broke her foot. A majority of the plastic air boot Tracy was fitted with is made of plastic.

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

“My orthopaedic doctor outfitted me with a lightweight, removable plastic boot,” Cullen explained.  “It is made of a durable, semi-rigid plastic shell, and four air cells line the boot to support my foot and ankle … I simply use a plastic hand bulb to inflate and deflate the air cells as needed for a snug fit, and I’m told that  this compression will reduce swelling and pain.

The boot, a.k.a. the Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker, is made by Breg, Inc. of Carlsbad, California. The shell “offers the same support, comfort and compliance as Breg’s Vectra product line with the added convenience of a lightweight, durable, semi-rigid shell,” of plastic.

Tracy was instructed to remove the air boot to flex and exercise her foot, ankle and leg muscles  in order to prevent stiffness and muscle atrophy. And that’s precisely why this type of plastic air boot is now commonly used to treat professional athletes like David Beckam, Wayne Rooney and others who suffer from Metatarsal fractures, sprained or broken ankles. It reduces pain and overall healing time so professional athletes and association execs alike can quickly get back in the game.

It wasn’t too long ago when the doctors would have broken out the plaster and made a bulky cast on Tracy’s foot, but in the past few decades, plastics have made health care simpler and less painful. They have reduced healing time, relieved pain and cut medical costs.

“I’ll be in my air boot through my rehabilitation period until I am ready to start walking normally,” Cullen said.  “I’ll simply start walking while still in the plastic boot—there is a tough rubber sole to provide traction.”

To complement the cast, Tracy is also using a knee scooter in lieu of crutches for enhanced mobility. The knee scooter is another medical device that benefits greatly from plastics. The wheels, leg rest and brake cable coverings are all products of the plastics industry. “Crutches are so 19th century,” Cullen joked as she rolled down the hall.

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, the plastics industry is responsible for much advancement in the world of medicine. State-of-the-art medical equipment utilizes plastic and helps people recover, rehabilitate, and regain their quality of life. Whether it is medical equipment such as stethoscopes made using polypropylene and polystyrene, or disposable medical applications (blood bags, tubing, catheters, examination gloves and inhalation masks as examples) made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane, or incubator domes made from acrylic or polycarbonate to defend premature infants against infection, plastics are there.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Plastics Industry Leaders Clean Up the Beach While in Miami

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

Bottles, aluminum cans, food wrappers, rubber tires and even a discarded grill were among items pulled from the Crandon Park beach in Miami during a beach clean up event hosted by the Ocean Conservancy and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.  The beach cleanup kicked off SPI’s National Board Meeting  held in a nearby Miami hotel.

SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux and VP Patty Long didn’t hesitate to wade through knee-deep water for trash.

SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux and VP Patty Long didn’t hesitate to wade through knee-deep water for trash.

As the bus of 40 to 45 SPI staff and association members pulled up to the beach, Miami-Dade County Park coordinator Alex Martinez noted that “with this number of people collecting the trash, we’ll actually get something done.”

SPI President and Chief Executive Officer William R. Carteaux slipped on a pair of rubber gloves and led the group, wading through the knee-deep water at times. After a couple of hours in the water and scouring the underbrush, SPI members and staff collected nearly three pickup trucks full of trash from a particular section of beach. At one point, association member Tad Mcguire and SPI staffer Michael Taylor pulled out a rusty tent supporter, claiming lightheartedly, “we’re the plastics industry, we’re not quitting.”

The following day, SPI presented a check to Miami-Dade Park Service official Bill Ahern for the Sea Turtle Conservation Program. Ahern and his wife Selina Mills originally met while on a sea turtle preservation event, and have put much effort into their preservation during the last 25 years.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recognizes Ahern’s efforts behind turtle preservation and issued a permit for further work in that area, conducting  turtle surveys, relocating nests, hatchling releases and other duties regarding marine turtles.

In addition to welcoming new members and association business at the meeting, SPI promoted its zero waste initiative, as well as their ongoing concern to mitigate the trash in the oceans and waterways. It is a feature in SPI’s new magazine, titled Marine Debris: A Deep Dive into the Science & Solutions.

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Hilex Poly Busts Myths About Plastics in Marine Environment

By Philip R. Rozenski, Director of Sustainability for Hilex Poly Company LLC, Policy Chair for the American Progressive Bag Alliance

As a leading American plastic bag manufacturer in the United States and operator of the nation’s largest closed-loop plastic bag recycling facility, Hilex Poly understands the importance of keeping plastic bags and films out of the environment and in the recycling stream. While we would love to Bag2Bag Logoeliminate all waste (and have in fact invested tens of millions of dollars in recycling programs), we recognize that there are times when various plastics are improperly disposed of and end up in places where they don’t belong.

At the same time, myths about plastic bag waste and litter continue to receive media and NGO (nongovernmental organization) attention that distorts our true litter problems. A perfect example where this can be seen is with marine debris. Contrary to what many people believe to be the truth, not only do plastic bags constitute a minute amount of the total overall marine litter, plastic bags are unfairly grouped with other littered items that serve as much larger threats to marine life.

BAG-2-BAG RECYCLING

To further reduce the likelihood of plastic bags becoming litter, Hilex has taken an aggressive, proactive approach to increase the amount of plastic bags that are recycled and makes recycling all plastic films convenient for consumers across the country. Through our Bag-2-Bag Recycling Program, we have distributed more than 32,000 recycling collection bins across 45 states, allowing millions of consumers to easily recycle plastic bags and wraps at grocery stores and retailers. Proving this program’s success, our recycling center in North Vernon, Ind., recycled more than 20 million pounds of bags, sacks and wraps in 2012 alone.

Bags created in our Bag-2-Bag program are made of recycled content, lower carbon emissions by 11 percent, require 20 percent less energy to produce, reduce the need for virgin material and divert millions of pounds from landfills each year through this closed-loop process. We are extremely proud that the time, money and resources we have invested in this program are paying off.

BUSTING MYTHS

We look forward to a day when the myths about plastic bag waste, including those surrounding marine debris, are recognized for what they are: myths. In the meantime, Hilex will continue to focus on solutions that make a real difference in protecting our environment. We are proud of our products, the many innovative ways people reuse them in their daily lives, and our Bag-2-Bag program which supports an effective way for consumers to recycle the plastic bags they don’t reuse – by turning them into new bags or other useful products.