Alliance aims to help North American plastics industry speak with one voice
With plastics facing a growing amount of scrutiny on a variety of fronts, the three major trade associations for the industry in North America have put together an alliance to coordinate their efforts to make sure the industry is sending out a clear and consistent message -- and not one that comes across as fractured. The new North American Plastics Alliance -- which will be formally announced July 7 -- brings together the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association in a virtual alliance that initially will focus on four key areas: pellet containment, advocacy, energy recovery and initiatives aimed at getting key stakeholders to look more favorably on plastics. The industry has been hard hit lately in the public eye, as legislators, consumers and non-government organizations have questioned the value of plastics in single-use products that contribute to litter and marine debris. Some 22 communities in the United States have bans on plastic carryout bags, eight of them enacted this year. In addition, Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md., have a 5-cent tax on paper and plastic carryout bags. Likewise, in California alone, 36 cities and three communities -- most of them adjacent to the ocean -- have banned polystyrene takeout food-service containers. In addition, a number of chemicals used to make plastics -- in particular bisphenol A and phthalates -- have become the subject of scrutiny because of perceived threat to human health. Nine states, the city of Chicago and four counties in New York have bans on BPA in baby bottles. In addition, Connecticut earlier this month enacted the first ban in the United States on the use of BPA in thermal printer paper cash register receipts, effective July 1, 2015. There are also three bans globally on BPA in baby bottles in Canada, Europe, Beijing and Canada. Canada also has declared BPA a toxic substance and is developing regulations to manage the risks from BPA. But Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC, said the three associations did not approach the alliance because of any particular “burning issue.” “The three organizations have worked well together in a number of areas over the last several years,” Russell said in a phone interview. “We felt we had an opportunity to coordinate things to make sure we all have the latest facts and access to the newest, most accurate data, and that we can learn from each other. “The alliance also will help the three organizations provide a more consistent advocacy message.” Russell said. The three association executives said they formed the alliance because they wanted to ensure that the existing cooperation between SPI, ACC and CPIA continued regardless of who was in charge. The three associations have joined arms twice in the last four months on environmental stewardship initiatives. They extended the industry’s pellet cleanup program, Operation Clean Sweep, into Canada in late June, and in March, they pledged, along with 44 other global plastics associations, including PlasticsEurope, to work in partnership with other groups and organizations to develop solutions to marine debris globally.