Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Moving Recycling Forward: Industry is On-Board

President's Post

I am actually impressed with how far we have come with recycling in America in a relatively short time period. But I am also keenly aware of how far we still have to go.

We should not lose sight of the incredible strides the plastics industry has already taken in terms of its use of recycled material and its serious consideration of “end of life” issues for its products. I know there are those who are not satisfied with our progress. But I think they need to fully comprehend where the industry was and where it is today concerning the whole host of issues surrounding sustainability.

I’ve been in the plastics industry for more than 20 years. Believe me, the topic of sustainability, and recycling in particular, was not nearly as prevalent on the agendas of conferences and meetings I attended in the 1980s as they are today. Papers on plastics recycling are being discussed and praised. Entire plastics conferences are now devoted to sustainability. I have given my own presentation – more than 20 times in the last year at conferences around the world — on the importance of sustainability as the central driver for innovation (and, yes, bottom-line reward) for the future of our industry.

Take a look at all the marvelous, innovative work pertaining to recycling being done by companies receiving the Society of Plastics Engineers’ 2009 Environmental Stewardship Awards. Then look at the recycling work of past winners of the same award. Next month, at NPE2009, we will hold the first International Plastics Design Competition and three sustainability awards will be presented for entries that yield improvements in energy efficiency, waste reduction, pollution reduction, and/or water conservation, and the use of recycled material can be seen in many of the entries. Sustainability and recycling are also a major theme of NPE2009 in general – both on the exhibit floor and in the conference sessions.

I have to read the plastics industry trade press as part of my job. Articles about fantastic plastics recycling work are here, there and everywhere…and then everywhere again. SPI blogs about plastics recycling projects all the time. Through ASTM, a recognized standards making body, SPI and others are working to update and improve the resin identification coding system to facilitate more efficient recycling of a variety of post-consumer plastics.

I can’t even do justice in this space to the steady stream of new recycling ventures I hear about on a weekly basis.

The point I’m trying to make is that we get it. The plastics industry is not at all dragging its feet on the issue of recycling. In fact, it is central to the plastics business and growing all the time. Why? Because consumers and retailers are demanding greener solutions. If they hope to stay in business and even thrive, plastics industry companies need to deliver those solutions.

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