Let’s Talk About the Economy

Despite what many people think, a ban on plastic bags would do more harm than good. A new initiative from the Plastics Industry Association highlights these and other economic impacts—aiming to change the conversation around plastics.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) is taking NPE2018 to introduce This Is Plastics, an online resource designed to arm plastics-industry employees with information and talking points to answer consumer questions and correct mistaken beliefs they may have about the material.

Many consumers take for granted—or are simply unaware of—the array of benefits plastics offer. All too often, those in the industry are left wondering what to say when conversation with family or friends turns to important but complicated topics—like plastic bag bans.

This Is Plastics (ThisIsPlastics.com) is a feature-rich resource designed to frame that conversation with facts. Articles, infographics and interactive quizzes highlight five key topics—Plastics 101, Environment, Safety, Innovation, and Economic Impact.

On the Economic Impact front? The plastics industry is vital to the American economy. It accounted for an increase of 11,000 jobs in 2016, and the economies of several states are dependent upon it. California has 77,000 plastics industry employees, while Texas has only a slightly smaller number. Indiana has the highest number of plastics employees per capita, with 16.5 per 1,000. The estimated value of total plastic shipments, including those from suppliers to plastics businesses, is $552.4 billion, and the total number of employees is 1.76 million.

So when you get into a conversation with a friend touting plastic bag bans, it might be helpful to use This is Plastics as a resource to point out the unintended economic consequences of that legislation. As the website points out, plastic bag manufacturing accounts for 30,900 American jobs, many of which become threatened when neighborhoods decide to ban plastic bags.

Mia Quinn, vice president of communications for PLASTICS and a driving force behind the new site says, “Plastic bag bans have a negative effect on retail sales in areas where bans are in place, as they encourage shoppers to take their business to areas neighboring ban regions.” Additionally, she says, a ban on plastic bags in Seattle has hurt store owners by increasing their bottom lines by 40 to 200 percent.   

Quinn points out that there are better options. “States and municipalities should work to combat plastic pollution without hurting both the economy and people who are poor by promoting plastic bag and film recycling instead.” For example, using pyrolysis to turn landfill-bound plastics into diesel fuel can reduce carbon emissions by 14 percent and water consumption by 58 percent. Additionally, gasification can turn solid waste into synthesis gas, which can be used to generate electric power or converted into chemical feedstocks such as ethanol or methanol. Mechanical recycling, a multi-step process that involves melting used plastic down to be reformed via injection molding or extrusion, can also reduce carbon emissions without endangering jobs.

These are just a few of the sustainable solutions offered by This is Plastics. Visit ThisIsPlastics.com to check out the online toolkit and arm yourself and your team with pride in the industry you serve.

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