All wars are terribly wasteful, but fratricidal strife may be the saddest waste of all. I hope I'm wrong, but I see worrisome signs of such strife within the plastics industry's trade associations.

When I walked into the 54th annual technical conference of the SPI Composites Institute last month, I was shocked to learn it would be the last one ever. The CI was going out of business. It had lost a competitive tug of war with the Composites Fabricators Association, a one-time splinter group that had quit the CI 20 years ago.

Even if you don't care about composites, there is something going on that everybody in plastics should care about. The CI's demise was apparently precipitated by the defections of several leading raw-materials suppliers. It's hard to miss the parallel with what's happening between the SPI as a whole and the American Plastics Council (APC), a group of large resin producers. Formerly collaborators, SPI and APC are now rivals for membership and financial support.

One doesn't have to choose sides to feel that a reconciliation is urgently needed. Do you want a plastics trade society that doesn't include those who make plastics?

This industry vitally needs a strong, effective trade association that speaks for everyone in resins, machinery, and processing. Only a group effort can deal with all the legislative and regulatory issues, public-image problems, workforce-development needs, and statistical data-gathering tasks that require collective involvement. Let's not waste our energies and resources. Let's get our act together!