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5/8/2018 | 3 MINUTE READ

Time to Change the Conversation About Plastics

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Check out Plastics Industry Association’s recently launched website and start advocating for your industry.

In the 30 years I’ve been reporting on plastics, there is at least one thing I can state without fear of contradiction: We as an industry are very good about touting the features of plastics among ourselves. To folks outside the industry? Not so good.

That’s probably no different from any other industry, to be honest. But with ours involving all these “mysterious” and misunderstood chemicals and all that, it’s crucial that we as an industry start banging the drum until the millions of people with misconceptions about plastics hear the good word.

If I’m coming off as accusatory, my bad.

Let me tell you a story: My daughter likes to drink bottled water. She brings a bottle or two with her in her car to sip while driving. Thing is, she never finishes the water in the bottle. Never. Instead, she’ll grab a fresh bottle from the fridge, take the bottle that’s maybe 90% consumed from her cupholder, and toss it on the floor of the passenger side of her car. This process will repeat itself again and again until passengers have to wade through a PET pile of semi-consumed water bottles that approach calf level. This irritates me on several levels, but enough with that.

Now my first-born is very environmentally conscious (just not particularly tidy), so at some point, she’ll gather up these bottles and put them in our recycling cans. But in the interim, this PET landfill on wheels becomes more and more expansive, as if these mostly empty bottles are somehow breeding. If you happen to be a passenger, the car will resonate with that crunchy PET bottle sound as you shift your feet around, and maybe you’ll get splashed with a few drops of water if the cap has not been tightly secured.

Anyway, on one occasion my sister was her passenger (I was in the back). The accumulation of bottles at this point was at a modest ankle high, and my sister—a highly intelligent person—issued her niece a stern warning: “Whatever you do, don’t drink the water that’s left in the bottles you’ve thrown on the floor here. You know, after they’ve been out in the sun for a while, the chemicals in the bottle break down and seep into the water.” My daughter replied, “I know. Don’t worry.”

Sheesh. Seriously? My own flesh and blood with these ridiculous notions? How mortifying. Then I thought about it after I barked at them from the back seat. The fact they had these ill-founded notions wasn’t really their fault. It was mine.

With all that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to a website with which you might not be familiar. It’s thisisplastics.com, and it’s brought to you by Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS). On its “About” page, PLASTICS explains why a site like this was launched to begin with:

“People aren’t blogging about the ways plastics are keeping kids healthy and safe. They aren’t tweeting about the millions of jobs the industry has created. They’re not having conversations in break rooms about how plastics are changing technology for the better. They’re talking about plastic bag bans. They’re talking about landfills and waste. They’re talking about BPA and phthalates, and they often don’t hear from us. We’re here to help you change the conversation. And that means we’re addressing these issues head-on. We’re being transparent. We’re proud to tell our story. With this resource, we’re empowering you with ways to tell the world what you do and why you do it. We’re empowering you with the truth about our industry and a material that makes a positive impact.”

The site has information on plastics basics (Plastics 101), the environment, safety, innovation, and economic impact. As you get ready for NPE2018 (plenty of news about that in this issue), I ask that you do two things: bookmark this website for yourself, and email or text the link to friends and family.

Isn’t it time to change the conversation about your own industry?

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