You’re probably between the proverbial rock and hard place competitively.

You’re probably between the proverbial rock and hard place competitively. High labor costs, rising energy expenses, onerous and expensive government regulations, environmentalists who want your products—and maybe even you—to go away…the list goes on.

What to do? It’s been nearly two years now since I moved from publisher to editorial director of Plastics Technology, and during that time I’ve tossed around a few ideas both in this space and throughout the rest of the magazine on “what to do.” Look no further than p. 42 of this issue, installment number 11 in our Energy Miser series; or p. 36, where we offer tips on baselining an extruder; or p. 32, where we highlight a processor (as we do every issue) that has its house in order. I’ve also written about the need to automate and to avail yourself of the latest in machinery, equipment and materials, etc.

Of course some of these suggestions I’ve tossed about require you to open your checkbook. Things are still tight, I know, though I would point out that there is a strong link between processors who are thriving and those who have invested in their business. That said, I was mystified when I learned recently how few North American processors have signed up for the Society of the Plastics Industry’s Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) program.

What is OCS? Originated by the SPI more than 25 years ago, OCS is a free program designed to help processors keep pellets where they belong…in the manufacturing process, making you parts and money. Just as important, this program helps you keep these pellets away from drains, local waterways, lakes, and oceans.

The program is in place in various countries, most recently Canada. The entire program is voluntary. You have to pledge to participate, and you get a manual containing guidelines and management tools required for successful implementation of the program.

So in the 25 years or so that this free, voluntary program has been in place, how many North American processors have signed up? Fewer than 200. What? Today, at prices on the order of a buck a pound for even “commodity” resins, is there anyone out there who can literally afford to throw money down the drain? Sure, there are plenty of processing operations that are as tidy as a surgical operating room. But there are more—far more—that should avail themselves of this program.

Still skeptical? Then listen to Steven Jones, general manager of Jatco Inc., an injection molder in Union City, Calif., quoted on the OCC website: “With the continuous demand from our customers to implement and improve operation and quality systems, we found that Operation Clean Sweep was a perfect complement to our existing operational systems. Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of customers and potential customers require confirmation that we incorporate systems that are both socially and environmentally sound. While this is still a relatively new trend, more and more supplier audits are including environmental controls as part of their approval process.”

He continues, “Operating a manufacturing business in the state of California is not easy. Operation Clean Sweep is frankly one of the simplest solutions to an environmental and regulatory issue that Jatco has ever implemented. We found that the integration of Operation Clean Sweep significantly helped us with overall plant cleanliness and awareness throughout all levels of employees within our organization. While we believe it is our duty as part of our industry to operate responsibly, we are also reassured by the potential avoidance of what we perceive as the ever-increasing threat of regulatory fines.”

Maybe this is a way for you to improve your efficiency and competitive position, while at the same time conveying something positive to your customers—and to the environmentalists who would just as soon as see you gone. And to do the right thing. Check out opcleansweep.org. Everything you need is there, including a few more testimonials from companies like yours.