Thursday, November 13th, 2014

As Renewal Season Ramps Up, SPI Offers an Easy Answer to Heavy Healthcare Questions

By SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

The leaves are turning and the climate is changing, the amount of time available for actual work is decreasing and the forecast seems to vary on a day-to-day basis, swinging from sunny skies and short sleeves to slickers or scarves at a moment’s notice.

That’s right: it’s renewal season!

A recent study released by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. the 2014 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey, found that U.S. employers’ biggest overall challenge is controlling benefit costs. Among employers surveyed, 63% reported that their benefit expenses account for 20% or more of their total compensation spend. The same study found that 98% of employers are committed to providing some form of employee healthcare benefits for the future. Subsidizing employee healthcare is a key element of any employer’s value proposition.

As such, employers considering their 2015 healthcare offerings are facing an environment with potentially higher costs and complex considerations when determining the right path forward. The manufacturing renaissance in America continues, but for companies to unleash their true growth potential they need to be able to spend less time tabulating the tangible and intangible pros, cons and costs of their employee benefit programs and more time innovating, exporting, investing and hiring.

Like any other sector the plastics industry has these same concerns about healthcare. Luckily, SPI listened and last April launched SPI HealthLink, a private exchange platform specific to SPI members. “The first step in the success of any healthcare plan is to recognize the issues that need to be addressed,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “Where SPI HealthLink stands out as such an attractive option for employers is in its ability to create a predictable solution that is both time and cost efficient.”SPI Health Link Logo2-4C

Private exchanges have emerged as an increasingly popular solution to the questions companies have about healthcare, with data collected by JD Power & Associates showing that 47 percent of businesses intend to adopt one. With SPI HealthLink you get more predictable costs, increased efficiency and streamlined administrative processes, and your employees get to pick benefits as unique as the plastic products and materials their companies manufacture, process, mold and recycle.

It’s easy to see how it becomes wasteful for a company to offer the same plan to a 65-year-old employee that it does to a 20-year-old employee. Operating from a defined contribution (DC) rather than defined benefit approach, SPI HealthLink abandons the one-size-fits-all model of traditional health plans that causes misaligned employee coverage.

With SPI HealthLink, employees choose the coverage that meets their individual needs across a wide range of insurance solutions. That means your employees are better protected and more invested in the benefit dollars your company spends on them.

SPI HealthLink allows employers to allocate fixed dollars to their employees so they can purchase the insurance they need, transforming the budgeting process into an array of concrete predictions instead of a parade of maybes. And all the while, as administered by international services firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., HealthLink can eliminate members’ administrative burden and help them get back to growing their business.

SPI members interested in learning more about HealthLink can click here, or call the SPI HealthLink hotline at (844)413-5871 to speak with a live representative from Gallagher. Whether you’re looking for new options or already have a plan in place, understanding the value of SPI HealthLink could be meaningful to helping your organization achieve greater organizational goals such as enhanced employee engagement and productivity.

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Letter from SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux on Last Week’s Midterm Elections

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

If there’s one conclusion to be drawn from last week’s elections, it’s that voters repudiated the gridlock and brinksmanship that too often defines our nation’s policy making. And, now that the election is over, the complicated process of governing begins. President Obama, Congress, Governors and state legislators must find ways to move the country forward.

In spite of all the change in Washington and state capitals, though, one thing hasn’t changed at all: our success in achieving pro-plastics outcomes will depend on the participation and support of individuals like you.

In Washington, at least 12 new U.S.  Senators and 56 new House members will  be sworn in this January. That means     we’ll have lots of new lawmakers to educate about our industry, its economic importance and the issues that matter to companies throughout the value chain.

The national wave was also reflected in key state-level races where outcomes suggest an improving landscape for plastics, particularly in some state capitals that have historically been troublesome for the industry. Just as we do in Washington, SPI will press state legislators and regulators to incorporate our interests into their decision making.

More important than which party controls the White House or Congress or Governors’ mansions, are the voices of the industry’s citizen-advocates like you. Looking ahead from Tuesday’s elections, there’s an opportunity not just to head off the threats that face us, but to advance meaningful, positive, proactive policy initiatives for the benefit of our entire industry.

We need everyone on board, both in response to dangerous legislative or regulatory developments and in support of pro-plastics initiatives that reaffirm our role as a forward-looking industry with a solid record of bettering our communities and our country.

That’s why I’m asking you to take a minute to fill out this brief survey to help us communicate our industry’s size and impact to elected officials, regulators and other key policy makers.

We appreciate your time as we proudly advocate for an ever-brighter future for us all.

Sincerely,

William R. Carteaux
President & CEO
SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association

Friday, November 7th, 2014

NYC Should Abandon Regressive Bag Tax, Join SPI, APBA to Fight Litter

Given the sky-high cost of living in New York, among the highest in the country, the average consumer doesn’t have a lot of money to spare. This is particularly true in the outer boroughs, which are home to some of the poorest congressional districts in the country. So it’s disappointing that the Big Apple is the latest metropolis to contemplate misguided legislation to tax plastic grocery bags in an attempt to address litter.

Recycled plastic bags imagePlastic bag taxes are inherently regressive, doing the most damage to the people who can least afford it. Supporters often cry that these taxes are minimal and the average citizen buying groceries should be able to afford them, but in a city where 1 in 5 people lives below the poverty line, that’s naïve, insensitive and presumptuous; these taxes can be crippling for those at the bottom of the economic spectrum, who simply are doing their best to put food on the table for their families.

Moreover, New York City (NYC) has a higher percentage of non-car owning citizens than any other city in America, making plastic bags a logical and convenient choice for the city’s many residents, who get by riding buses, taking trains and walking. The plastic bag’s popularity with urban dwellers stretches back to its origins in the mid-1960s, when suburban dwellers preferred paper bags that could stand up in the trunks of their cars. Urbanites opted for plastic bags instead, since they have handles, are lighter, can hold 1000 times their weight and are reused. New Yorkers should be allowed to continue to enjoy these benefits without having to pay for the privilege.

The market economics of NYC’s grocery stores also are uniquely suited to include plastic bags, as the city isn’t dotted with big chain establishments but with tiny, owner-operated bodegas, delis, multipurpose shops and other small businesses. A bag tax could squeeze local store owners as much as it squeezes average New Yorkers.

The fact is that supporters of the NYC bag tax are misguided in their attempts to control litter. The issue here is not material; it is behavioral. Plastic bags can and should be recycled. It’s been nearly two decades since we, as a country, had an honest conversation about litter or took the time to educate and empower the next generations of schoolchildren about how to properly dispose of and recycle everything that can be recycled.spi_logo_300x151

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) share NYC’s concern about litter, and we are ready to have a conversation about how we can eliminate it and close the loop on plastic materials. Recycled materials of all types are valuable to innovators and businessmen and good for businesses, communities and the environment. We oppose bag taxes, which are a regressive, counterproductive and intellectually lazy response to a community and environmental issue that cries out for bold action and long-term commitment.apba logo_2012

We must educate and empower our young people to make a difference. That’s why SPI recently teamed up with JASON Learning, a nonprofit organization managed by the Sea Research Foundation, in partnership with the National Geographic Society, to launch the “Think Outside the Bag!” plastic film and bag recycling contest. By asking students to come up with creative campaigns to increase awareness about recycling flexible plastic films (i.e. dry cleaner bags), product wrapping and traditional plastic grocery bags, the contest aims to make today’s youth tomorrow’s plastic recycling and anti-litter advocates. The APBA also supports A Bag’s Life, a program that helps kids and their communities learn more about recycling plastic bags while giving them the tools they need to host their own recycling events across the country.

Rather than cynically working to reduce consumer access to materials that are convenient and environmentally friendly but arbitrarily declared undesirable, we’re working to build a lasting solution to the problem of litter by helping change consumer behavior now and in the future. The plastics industry, led by SPI and the APBA, is moving the needle on recycling and reducing litter, and we won’t stop until every plastic bag is reused or recovered and every piece of litter eliminated. Instead of merely trying to tax its way out of this problem, NYC can be the leader it always has been and join us in challenging its residents to help put an end to litter once and for all.

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

As Manufacturing Renaissance Continues, Hackers Take Note

SPI continues to fight the misconception of manufacturing as a dated, old-fashioned industry, an image of the sector that’s as potent as it is false. But unfortunately for many manufacturers, there’s at least one constituency that’s become fully aware of the technological complexity and inherent value contained within the modern factory: hackers.

When guessing what industry is most frequently targeted by hackers, most people would probably guess banking or financial services, and that might be close, PackExpoMainbut it’d also be wrong. “Manufacturing is the most hacked industry right now,” said Doug Bellin of Cisco, delivering a presentation on the Internet of Things in the Center for Trends & Technology at this year’s PACK Expo. Citing a report published in the Wall Street Journal, Bellin said that 75% of all major manufacturing companies had admitted to being hacked at some point, but noted that he felt the problem was in all likelihood much worse. “There’s a key word in that statistic: ‘admit,’” he said. “The number is probably closer to 100%.”

Security has become paramount for all manufacturers as they’ve become more technologically advanced and adopted “Internet of Things” philosophies that aim to find value in a form of intra-organizational connectedness that goes beyond mere machine-to-machine communication to include items like marketing, human resources and health and safety management, among others.

“Three years ago if I said ‘security’ no one would care, but security now is key to anything that we say,” Bellin said. “Previously manufacturing had security by obscurity because it wasn’t connected. The door wasn’t open. Now you’re saying you need to have the connectivity because you’re going to see value from that,” he added, noting that efforts to facilitate this sort of value-driven connectivity between a company’s systems can amount to a doubling of critical infrastructure, which in turn increases entry points for hackers who in many ways have come to replace intellectual property (IP) thieves. “It’s no longer about IP theft,” Bellin said. “They don’t steal the plans. They use information from the PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and they reverse engineer the code on there to create the same thing.”

Nonetheless, preventing attacks like this isn’t hopeless and the benefits of interconnectivity can often yield immensely positive results, so long as the company in question remains continually diligent about its safeguards. “What scares people is that, in theory, this is now on the internet, ensuring that you can get to the data,” Bellin added. “But security’s not something you implement once and it’s done.”

As the manufacturer maintains and constantly stays on top of its security procedures, however, applying the concept of connectivity can help address many manufacturers most seemingly intractable problems, leading to increased efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and even increased employee loyalty and better hiring and retention practices. Bellin noted that, in many ways, manufacturing as an industry is aging, and that fewer young people are entering to take their place, but that the reasons and realities behind this phenomenon can be put to use as valuable pieces of intelligence in order to keep that process moving forward, ensuring that the older employees’ knowledge and experience are being used to their fullest and that the new people entering the company are able to learn and grow as well.

In a way the advent of big data allows manufacturers to apply older philosophies to plant optimization on an organization-wide basis, to their and their customers’ benefit. “The reality is that manufacturing has been doing sensors for a long time. The problem was they weren’t connected and you had islands of information out there,” Bellin said. “Now just getting to the data isn’t enough. You need to add a layer of intelligence.”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

SPI: EPS Foam Can Be Recycled, Easily and Profitably

SPI and its Recycling Committee are, once again, out to correct another misconception about plastics.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), the kind that’s found in coolers, in takeout food packaging, in shipped cardboard boxes filled with packaging peanuts and in many other contexts, is a material that’s widely misunderstood and, in more than one corner of the consumer world, mistakenly thought to be unrecyclable.

“EPS serves many important roles in our lives,” said the SPI Recycling Committee in a new paper, titled “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery.” “It insulates. It protects. It has a fraction of the environmental impact in the full life cycle compared to other non-resin alternatives. The greatest challenge for this material at end-of-life is, however, also a symptom of its best feature; it is light, creating a unique set of challenges for collection and processing.” However, as the paper outlines, when paired with the right technology solutions, these challenges are easily overcome.

Dart Container’s PS foam recycling support includes collection/shipping containers.

In the just over a year that it’s been in existence, the SPI Recycling Committee has already notched success after success in moving the needle on plastics recycling, and its EPS paper is the latest effort to prolong its winning streak. “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery” finds that “lack of awareness and infrastructure to support the collection of EPS has been cited as a significant barrier to expanding the collection of EPS products,” but that “having the right technology in place to support efficient collection and processing of EPS products is key to unlocking the recovery potential of these valuable materials.”

As such, the paper provides a primer to recyclers working domestically and internationally on what technologies are available to make EPS recycling possible and profitable. In addition to broadly discussing the EPS market and opportunities contained therein, “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery” also includes a list, complete with information on equipment capacity and availability, of technologies recyclers can use to expand their EPS processing capability.

“Investing in technology to expand the recovery and processing of EPS can enable plastics recyclers to meet both an economic and environmental need,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “Increasing recycling rates for all types of PCR plastic materials is both good business and good corporate citizenship, and the SPI Recycling Committee continues to do an excellent job leveraging its unique position in SPI, and throughout the entire $374-billion plastics industry, to expand end-use opportunities for recycled plastics, including EPS.”

spi_logo_2000x1007Facts, figures and intelligence such as that contained within the Recycling Committee’s EPS report do more than just serve as valuable business tools for companies in the plastics industry. They also combat the misconceptions that keep plastic materials like EPS and others from being recycled. “People just don’t realize all the options in recycling that are out there,” said Jon Stephens, senior vice president of Avangard Innovative and chairman of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Technology and Equipment subcommittee. “Half the people don’t even know they can take their grocery bags back to the grocery store to be recycled. Once we can get this education piece out and promote recycling and let citizens know that they can recycle this material, more communities will collect it, keep it out of landfills, reduce the space and create a revenue stream for the product.”

“It’s a huge environmental benefit,” he added. “Like any other plastics packaging material, it does serve a purpose, if not for the plastics industry then for the food industry or for the packaging industry. It all serves a purpose.”