Plastic Classics

What designs today will stand as icons of this time? Writer Julie Lasky posed that question in the New York Times this week, prompted by the upcoming tenth anniversary of Philippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chair. Its maker Kartell claims that with 1.5 million sold to date, the transparent plastic seat  has become  “the most widely sold design chair in the world.”In consultation with other design experts, Lasky put together a list of other items that might be our grandchildren of the Eames lounge chair. What struck me in reading the list was how many of them were plastic — whether that made for a relatively inexpensive place to sit (the $260 Emeco chair) or one that was outrageous (the $38,000 C2).

Here are some of the contenders she discussed:

Konstantin Grcic's Myto chair (2010)


Patrick Jouin C2 chair (2004) Made by 3D printing



Patrick Jouin, One Shot (2006); also made by 3D printing

Konstantin Grcic's Magis chair (2004)

Emeco 111Navy (2010) Made from 111 plastic bottles

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Plastics at the Rio Earth Summit

Daniella Russo, a co-founders of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, was in Rio de Janeiro last week for the Rio+20 2012 Earth Summit. I asked her about what did   –and didn’t — happen at the international gathering:

Q: What were you hoping to accomplish at Rio?
A:  My greatest wish was to put the issue of plastic pollution on the map of major issues on the path of sustainability. I also was hoping to get a better understanding of how other nations and NGOs view this issue. We had a very difficult time getting the organizers of the summit on board with the concept that plastic pollution was inconsistent with an Earth Sustainability summit, so the hope was again to bring the issues to the attendees and the delegates.

Q:How was the issue of plastic pollution addressed there?
A: The conference made a tiny effort to reduce plastic pollution, despite our repeated efforts to bring hydration stations, refillable bottles and utensils made from natural materials. It was not difficult logistically, but they did not deem it a priority.
During the sessions plastic pollution was mentioned often but quickly repositioned by the plastics industry and other businesses as a problem that can be resolved with more recycling. This was true during sessions organized by UNEP [the United National Environmental Program] about marine trash, as well as other sessions focusing on sustainable living. It was clear that there was little or no understanding of the toxic nature of plastic, and the particular danger to human health they represent.
Q: Yet according to the tweetosphere,  plastic was the top issue people were talking about?
A:  Yes, but in carefully calibrated terms as a problem that can be managed by end of life programs. It will take a lot more education for people to understand the true costs of plastic pollution to society and to human health. That said, plastic pollution appeared in all ocean discussions, in all sustainability discussions and in all waste management conversations.
Q: The final document summarizing conferees’ vision for the future contains a reference to the danger plastic poses to the health of the oceans. But you’ve said it was a struggle to get the word “plastic” included in that document . Why was it so hard to get recognition?What were you hoping to accomplish at Rio?
A: There is a huge and well organized opposition to any group who tries to focus on the unique dangers of plastic. The general push is to bundle plastic with rest of waste and thus diminish its importance. Plastic, unlike all other materials, is totally inert and cannot be handled as rest of waste. It is also toxic. This tends to also be overlooked, despite all international bans on BpA and toxic chemicals leaching from plastics. The most visible aspects of plastic pollution are the ones that get people to talk – the environmental impacts. We worked hard to educate as many people as possible on the dangers, and even so it is hard to get the many facets of the issue to the surface.
We are however pleased with the progress, although we need to be moving much faster towards a complete recognition of the issue, in order to get action.
Q: Several groups sponsored a side event, Plasticity 2012, to spur innovative thinking about solutions to the problems posed by plastic. Can you tell me a bit about what was discussed?
A:  There were three types of discussions:
* front end solutions, such as businesses that work on products to eliminate plastic waste: bioplastics, change in packaging / product design, and new generation of products: Pylantis, MyReplenish, LifeFactory, as well as Mycobond
* source reduction policies: As You Sow, Gaia, ReciColeta Brazil
*  economics and environmental capital: how investors have a unique opportunity to address these environmental challenges while creating substantial shareholder value by
investing in clean energy and technologies. (Go to Plasticity for more about the speakers and the program.)
Q: The  Forum was designed to create a community of stakeholders– so where do you see that movement going next?
A: A good question. Further discussions took us into the creation of a semi-collaborative of stakeholders about ocean health. It’s a first step down the path of collaboration. I will report on this when I see the final matrix of collaborators and topics we created. It is a promising step in the right direction; collaboration is definitely key.


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Plasticity 2012

Do you have a cool idea for reusing used plastic bottles? Have you thought of innovative ways to collect and recycle plastic trash?

If so, check out Plasticity 2012, a one-day forum that will be held next month alongside Rio Earth Summit 2012. The conference will be a chance  for business and community leaders to share and brainstorm solutions to the problem of plastic waste in the environment, including cutting edge recycling, re-use, design, packaging, materials, case studies (from cities, groups and companies), policies, and emerging new technologies. For those who can’t make their way to Rio, Plasticity’s organizers are holding a competition, Capture Gold, to find smart solutions that will help improve the capture and reuse of PET plastic bottles.

Doug Woodring, one of the event organizers, explains: “PET  is an easy material to recycle, BUT, the bottles are not being recycled at the rate they could be.  In the US, we use almost 72 billion PET plastic bottles per year, and only 21% gets recycled according to the Container Recycling Institute – there is a big opportunity here!   Rebate laws only exist in some states, and certainly not all countries, so something genius needs to happen to change people’s mindset about this material.” The challenge, he said, is to figure out “the best, coolest, new way to use the material. If something neat is made, and people demand it, then the “sucking” sound will start which will help to draw the waste bottles back into the recycling stream.”

For more on the contest, click here: Capture Gold


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Whose Wish List Counts?

One of the chief defenders of the plastics/chemicals industry is the Washington DC law firm of Keller and Heckman. Founding partner Jerome Heckman has represented plastics  for decades going back to  the industry’s first public relations crisis in 1959 when dozens of infants and toddlers accidentally suffocated on the filmy plastic dry cleaner bags that were just being introduced to the market. Communities across the country threatened to ban the bags; Heckman, representing the Society for the Plastics Industry, helped repulse the wave of proposed bans.

One of the firm’s areas of expertise is negotiating the Food and Drug Administration’s labyrinth of regulations on “indirect food additives”  –the substances that can leach into food from packaging or equipment used in processing food. A 2002 memo — taken from the  firm’s website and excerpted below – discusses how the firm helped industry win approval for chemicals used to coat food and beverage cans, including the controversial chemical bisphenol A. According to the memo, in the late 1950s, industry submitted a “wish list” of chemicals for approval. FDA regulators deleted the ones they had concerns about and approved the remainder based on what the memo refers as the FDA’s “unwritten assumptions” about exposure.

What were the assumptions at the time? One was the age-old notion that the dose makes the poison. FDA regulators assumed that the risks of a chemical depended on the amount someone was exposed to. Provided only minute amounts migrated into food, the substance was presumed to be safe. But research in the past twenty years has found that some chemicals don’t act like classic toxins, but more like hormones, and that even very small doses of exposure can trigger health effects. BPA is, in fact, a synthetic estrogen and animal and research suggests it can disrupt the effect of that hormone in the body. Animal and some human studies have associated BPA exposure with health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, early puberty, even learning disabilities. The research is not conclusive, still many experts and health advocates think it has thrown up enough warning signs that the chemical ought to be banned from food-contact uses.

To date, the FDA has rejected those calls. Most recently, in late March, it denied a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a ban. “While evidence from some studies have raised questions as to whether BPA may be associated with a variety of health effects, there remain serious questions about these studies, particularly as they relate to humans,” the FDA wrote.

It’s true: the evidence is uncertain, particularly in relation to humans. Still, reading the memo, it’s striking to see how casually the FDA approved BPA some 50 years ago.  As one expert on the issue told me, “It seems odd that FDA held NRDC to such a high standard for its petition to reverse an original safety decision that demanded far less.” It sure seems the bar is a whole lot higher for health advocates’ wish list that it was for industry’s.

Here’s an excerpt from the memo:

Shortly after the Food Additives Amendment of 1958 was added to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“the Act”), FDA surveyed industry to compile a list of substances that were being used to manufacture can coatings.

FDA was comfortable seeking industry input because the agency generally believed that these coatings were applied as a very thin layer over a metal substrate, such that there was only a small reservoir, if any, of the substance available to migrate to food. Additionally, at the time, can coatings were invariably baked on the metal substrate to form an enamel from which essentially nothing was expected to migrate to food.

These “unwritten” assumptions provided FDA with the necessary measures of safety it needed to allow industry to submit a list of substances that it desired to use in coatings. Furthermore, at the time the can coatings regulation was promulgated, FDA imposed a 50 parts per million (ppm) limit on the overall migration of non-volatiles from the coating to food (i.e., the “global” migration limit that is still in place today).

In response to FDA’s survey, members of the Can Manufacturers Institute provided the agency with an omnibus petition containing a list of common materials used in can coatings. Rather than subject these substances to the usual substance-by-substance food additive petition review process, industry’s “wish list” was simply reviewed by FDA’s toxicologists, who deleted from the list any substance that posed a potential safety concern.

The revised list was then reviewed and agreed to by industry, and subsequently published as a regulation.

You can find the whole memo at:


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The new new bag defenders

FYI bag warriors:

In January, the American Chemistry Council handed over defense of the plastic bag to the Society for the Plastics Industry — plastic’s older, but smaller and poorer trade association. The advocacy team, now operating under the name  the American Progressive Bag Alliance, is  headed by Dave Asselin, a former vice president of allied associations at the National Association of Manufacturers and counts five to six full-time members.

This marks at least the third generation of industry defenders. When the first anti-bag measures began cropping up in California around 2004, the major bag manufacturers, unable to rouse help from either the ACC or SPI, pooled resources, set up a fund of about $500,000 and started their own pro-bag campaign. By 2008, so many communities were proposing bag restrictions, the manufacturers couldn’t keep up, so the better-funded and  battle-tested ACC took over the task. Now it’s the SPI’s turn to try to save the plastic bag.

Its campaign is still getting off the ground but in a recent story in Plastics News, SPI president Bill Carteaux described the current approach to the never-ending fight over plastic shopping bags:

“We are being very aggressive on that issue,” he said. “We have filed petitions with local governments to find out where they are getting their information, and I have talked and issued statements on why plastic bags are better than paper bags and positioned the sustainability solution — and not a bad thing.”

The bag alliance has used the SPI database on jobs and plastic industry statistics to outline and explain the number of jobs the plastic bag industry provides in areas where legislators are considering bans.

“We can go into a municipality and talk about actual jobs and the economic value of the plastic bag industry,” he said. “I don’t think we ever realized how the size and the impact of the plastics industry can help us” deal with this issue.


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Remember the Lorax

In anticipation of the new film, The Lorax, the American Chemistry Council has launched a site directed at all those kids who may have been energized by the movie’s environmental message.  Plastics and the Lorax doesn’t try to overtly correct any anti-plastic feelings stirred by the film, aside from one quick round of cheerleading for plastics:. “A space age material that continues to find new uses…including uses that help protect the environment.”  Instead, it tries to direct any newly-awakened eco-consciousness into a single activity: recycling.

As the real Lorax might put it:                                                                                         

Recycling old bags and bottles does sound fantastic

But it won’t decrease our need to keep making new plastic

Turning foam cups into frames is not the solution

To the ever growing problem of  plastic pollution

To really help the earth, we need to reduce

That’s the true message of good old Dr. Seuss

Let’s go back a minute to the original story. In the book, trouble started when the narrator, the Once-ler ( take note of that name!) started a factory devoted to the making of Thneeds –thingamajigs knitted from the tufts of Truffula trees. It wasn’t clear what a Thneed was, or who would ever want one.  Until that, is the Once-ler plastered the town with the brilliant ad campaign “You need a Thneed.” Soon the factory was working round the clock, turning out more and more Thneeds and shipping them north, south, east and west.  “I had to grow bigger, so bigger I got,” recalls the Once-ler. And he kept on “biggering”  until he’d cut down every last Truffula tree and chased away every last Bar-ba-Loot, Swomee-Swan and Humming-fish and all  that was left was a smog-ridden, fouled, devastated place. The story wasn’t just a conservationist call to arms; it was a critique of late-market capitalism, Karl Marx in iambic pentameter.

Not having seen the movie, I don’t know whether that critique of unbridled growth and greed stays in. (It seems unlikely given studios’ penchant for squeezing every last potential profit from kids’ movies; indeed, the company is under fire for negotiating some 70 Lorax promotional tie-ins, including Happy Meal Thneeds er, I mean, toys. )

But that larger message is definitely missing from the ACC’s translation. There is not a single mention on the “Plastics and the Lorax” site suggesting how kids might reuse a plastic bottle, or better still, skip one altogether by drinking from a reusable bottle. In the ACC’s lesson plan, there is no place for the concepts of reuse and reduce. Instead, it’s all about what old plastics can become: new bags and bottles, t-shirts, flower pots, picnic tables, decks and lumber. Such products may be a step up from Thneeds, but it’s still debatable whether they really are what we need.

Posted in Business of Plastics, Recycling | 1 Comment

How to keep up with bag laws

When I was working on my book, trying to track the political debate over plastic bags was a major pain. Every time I saw a news story about some town considering a ban, I would log it into a chart I had made; it was hardly a precise or exacting method. Now I have the luxury of simply checking the wonderful website, a compendium of information related to the ongoing battle over bags. I only wish it had existed two years ago.

The site is the brainchild of  Jennie Romer, a San Francisco Bay area lawyer.  While in law school, she said, she decided to write an article about San Francisco’s landmark decision in 2007 to ban plastic bags. That got her interested in the growing debate over bags, but when she decided to write another article, she discovered that there was little available information about what was happening in other communities, the strategies bag activists were pursuing, or the kinds of tactics the industry was using. Unlike many issues, the push to ban plastic bags has been an entirely local phenomenon, undirected by any kind of national campaign. The upside is the movement is genuinely grassroots; the downside, as Romer discovered, is there’s been no central repository of information for localities to draw on. “I started the website as a research tool for myself,” she told me. “And it just kind of turned into a bigger thing.”

Now she’s tracking legislation in all 50 states as well as litigation in California, where most of the court battles have taken place. She has also compiled studies of plastic bag laws and regulations, life cycle analyses, scientific reports on their  environmental impacts and other related information, as well as a host of useful plastic-related links, including one to another bag-tracking site, Plasticbagbanreport. Personally, Romer favors efforts to restrict plastic bags, but she includes reports from both defenders and assailants of single-use plastic bags.

We are in the midst, she says, of a wave of “second generation” bag laws. San Francisco launched the first generation with its flat-out ban on plastic bags, the law that became the model for communities around the country. But now communities are recognizing the shortcomings of that approach: targeting plastic  bags alone leaves people free to keep using paper bags — which also have environmental costs, ie. more water and energy to produce – -and does little to break the general single-use habit. This newer generation of bag laws takes aim at both plastic and paper, typically by banning the former and putting a fee on the latter. This week San Francisco joined the wave, by expanding its original bag ban, making it a requirement for all retailers in the city (not just big grocery stores) and adding a ten-cent fee for paper bags. To see what other towns are doing, check out Romer’s site.

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The Coming Polyethylene Flood

Everyday I receive a news alert from the American Chemistry Council and each day it seems the alert contains at least one or more entries about fracking — the controversial practice of extracting natural gas (or oil) from shale. Even as recently as a few months ago, fracking was scarcely mentioned. Now, the ACC dispatches are brimming with excitement over the prospect of vast new supplies of low-cost natural gas, such as this article in Bloomberg News which was headlined, “Cheap Shale Gas Means Record U.S. Chemical Growth.”

What a difference a few hydraulic drills can make. When I was interviewing people in the plastics industry two to three years ago, there was a pervasive sense of impending doom. Oil and natural gas prices were high, pushing the petrochemical companies that make raw plastics to relocate closer to regions rich in the fossil fuels that supply the industry’s raw materials. Experts believed that the plastic industry’s center of gravity was shifting from its historic roots in North America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia.  Now there’s this sense of jubilation — American plastics is roaring back to life! — fueled by faith in fracking.  And indeed, thanks to new — and environmentally dangerous — drilling methods, expanding shale operations from Texas to Pennsylvania have dramatically dropped the price of natural gas, which provides the feedstock for about 70 percent of the plastics produced in this country, most notably polyethylene. (Elsewhere in the world, oil is the main starting ingredient for plastic.)  The Energy Information Administration predicts shale gas could account for as much as 47 percent of American gas production by 2035, up from 16 percent in 2009.

Several of the major petrochemical companies have announced plans to build new crackers — the gigantic $1.5  billion furnaces that break up hydrocarbons into the gases such as ethylene or benzene that are used to make plastics and commodity chemicals. No new crackers have been built in the U.S. since 2001. But in recent months, Dow, Chevron Phillips, Occidential and Formosa Plastics have all announced plans to build crackers in the Gulf Coast. Shell Oil says it will construct a cracker to produce ethylene in Appalachia, site of the massive Marcellus Shale formation; it’s the first to be built in the region in over 50 years.  Eastman is reopening one of its crackers, while LyondellBasell plans to invest in another.

No one, however,  is on a bigger building binge than Dow, the world’s largest producer of polyethylene. Just a few years ago Dow was closing down and/or shrinking its U.S. plastics facilities and trying to move operations to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  Now Dow plans to spend about $4 billion to build a new cracker near the Gulf Coast, reopen another in Louisiana and construct two plants devoted to propylene, the base ingredient for polypropylene. “The U.S. now has investment-grade economics, and because of shale we are going to lock those economics in,” Dow CEO Andrew Liveris told Bloomberg News.

All this investment in ethylene crackers means stepped up production of polyethylene, as well as other commodity plastics. It will be interesting to see what happens then. One of the main uses of polyethylene is in packaging — the very sector of the plastic economy under sharpest political attack at present.  Will the industry push back harder against efforts to reduce excess packaging and measures to ban polyethylene bags? Will there be even less incentive for the industry to get behind recycling measures — since the price of virgin polyethylene is bound to drop? Will the flood of shale-gas reduce incentives to develop renewable feedstocks for plastics? Will we see new polyethylene applications, or an increased drive to export to new markets overseas?

My concern is that many of our plastic problems trace back to the fact that it is all too easy to waste — too much is used for single-use packaging and  throwaway products; there are too few economic incentives to recycle or reuse, much less reduce our reliance on new plastic stuff. We’re currently consuming 300 pounds of plastic a year — ten times the amount used in 1960. My fear is vast supplies of cheap new plastic ensure that number will only go up. It will be that much harder to drive home the message that the low price of plastic (or by extension, natural gas) doesn’t reflect its true cost, and that while we may seem to have endless supplies of this fantastically cheap material, it is still worth way too much to waste.

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Will Bag Bans Take Off in California?

If I were a betting person, I’d wager we’ll see a wave of plastic bag prohibitions coming out of California communities over the next year. And I’m guessing that unlike the first round of bag measures that were inspired by San Francisco’s landmark bag ban, these will be better crafted and restrict not only plastic bags, but paper ones as well. I’m envisioning — okay, maybe just hoping — that cities will finally focus on the root problem represented at check-out stands: our reliance on single-use bags and that they will enact laws that really encourage people to switch to reusables.

Anti-plastic bag activists have already been moving in that direction. For instance, the state-wide bag bill proposed in 2010, (and backed by an amazingly broad coalition including environmentalists, grocers, unions and even free-marketeers like former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger), took aim at both plastic and paper bags, with a ban on the former and a fee for the latter. Oregon followed the same tack with its bag bill earlier this year.  Big chain grocers like Safeway would prefer to see statewide measures rather than a patchwork of local ordinances.  But the resounding defeat of each of those bills suggested that for now, at least, any action on bags is going to have come out of local arenas.

And now California communities have gotten another nudge: the state Supreme Court’s decision upholding a bag ban passed by the small southern California town of Manhattan Beach. That 2008 measure barred retailers from giving out plastic bags; city officials said they were motivated by concerns about litter and plastic bags’ effect on the beach and ocean wildlife. They said they would later come back and pass a measure aimed at limiting paper bags. But no sooner had the ink dried on the new law then a group of bag makers, represented by San Francisco attorney Steve Joseph, sued.   Joseph argued — and two lower courts agreed — that the city should have done an environmental impact review (EIR) before passing the ban because it would lead to greater use of paper bags, which also have environmental impacts. Similar suits had already successfully blocked bag bans enacted in Oakland and the small Marin community of Fairfax.  And Joseph’s threat to sue any other city that tried to restrict plastic bags led many towns and local activists to shelve plans for bag bans.  Few were willing to brave a lawsuit or front the $50,000 to $235,000 it takes to conduct an environmental impact study.

But now the Supreme Court has said that a bag ban may not require an environmental review.  In its unanimous ruling Thursday, the court said that “substantial evidence and common sense” supported the city’s position that banning plastic bags in favor of paper bags would not harm the environment.

The ruling makes it easier for many communities to enact some kind of bag restriction. The advocacy group Environment California told the Los Angles Times that there are at least 20 towns with bag laws in the works. Nine communities have already approved plastic bag bans, including San Francisco, Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Marin County, San Jose and Calabasas, Manhattan Beach and Los Angeles County.

James Moose, attorney for Californians Against Waste, predicted the ruling will change the kind of fight the bag industry has been mounting in local town halls. He told the Times the industry will no longer be able to simply cite generic studies that show the environmental perils of paper bags but have little to do with the community imposing the prohibition on plastic.

The court ruling doesn’t let all towns off the hook, especially bigger cities contemplating  bans on plastic bags. The court said the legal “analysis would be different for a ban on plastic bags by a larger  governmental body, which might precipitate a significant increase in paper bag consumption.” This suggests the most lawsuit-proof policies are ones that aim to restrict consumption of both plastic and paper bags.

It also means some larger communities may be required to do environmental reviews, attorney Moose told the Times. But “each case turns on its own facts,” he said. “This decision makes it more difficult for people in the industry to thwart environmentally benign regulations adopted by communities in California.”

Joseph is not giving up the fight, however. And a story in Plastics News suggests the legal strategy he plans to use in continuing to press his fight on behalf of the Save the Plastic Bag Coaltion.

Joseph argues the decision is specifc only to Manhattan Beach and leaves room to take small, as well as larger cities to court over bag ban proposals.  “The court cleared the path to require cities other than Manhattan Beach to do EIRs – under two circumstances,” he told Plastics News. Certainly larger cities have to do EIRs, and he maintains even smaller smaller cities may have to do EIRs because of the build-up of critical mass of smaller and larger cities with plastic bag bans since 2008. He plans to press ahead with suits now pending against Marin County and Long Beach. “This decision is good for the plastics industry and it’s good for the environment. We are delighted and will continue to demand EIRs,” Joseph said.


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Plastic Groups Team Up

Plastic has long been a balkanized industry, fraught with internecine rivalries. For years, there was bad blood between the industry’s two biggest trade groups, the Society for  the Plastics Industry (SPI) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). But there’s nothing like shared adversity to bring old rivals together.  In the face of growing public agitation about various plastic-related issues, the SPI, the ACC and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association are now forming a united front. Their new group, the North American Plastics Alliance will  “help the industry speak with a single voice in North America,” according to a report in Plastics News. (For now, that voice doesn’t include the Mexican industry, but ACC vice president for plastics, Steve Russell, said that eventually the Alliance will bring in other associations, including representatives from Mexico.)

As PN reporter Mike Verespej notes, the alliance comes at time when the industry is facing challenges on many fronts. Anti-bag measures continue to be introduced: some 22 US communities have banned them and two — Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, MD — have passed five-cent fees on plastic and paper bags. In California alone, more than three dozen communities have banned polystyrene take-out containers. Nine states have banned bisphenol A from baby bottles, as have Canada, Europe and Beijing; Canada also has declared the chemical a toxic substance.

Misery loves company. According to Verespej. the new Alliance will focus on managing its misery in four main areas:

1. Advocacy: which presumably means presenting a unified voice and single message on issues such as bag bans or anti-BPA measures. This could increase the industry’s political clout and presumably allow development of a bigger warchest than any of the individual groups can muster individually.

2. Energy recovery: Given the low recycling rates of plastics and the challenges of recycling many varieties of plastic, increasingly the industry is pushing for waste-to-energy technology as a way to deal with plastic trash. It’s interesting to see that this is high on the new alliance’s agenda.

3. Pellet containment: Encouraging companies to take measures to prevent pre-production pellets from escaping into the environment. The U.S., and more recently Canada, already have a pellet containment program, Operation Clean Sweep, which has been effective where and when it’s implemented. Unfortunately, it remains voluntary.

4. “Initiatives aimed at getting key stakeholders to look more favorably on plastics,” in Verespej’s words, which I assume refers to PR campaigns like the ACC’s recent sponsorship of art exhibits and fashion shows with the message that “plastic is the new black.”

What’s not on the list: Increased support or investment in recycling infrastructures; Support of research into the health and environmental safety of chemicals used in plastics or as additives; Promotion of development of biodegradable plastics; Support of litter abatement initiatives; Research into marine debris.

In short, aside from the pellet containment program — which remains purely voluntary — the new alliance doesn’t seem any more interested in taking real responsibility for the impact of plastics on health and the environment than its individual member groups. And now legislators, policy-makers, activists and others grappling with problems posed by plastics will have to contend with an even stronger opposition.



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