Thu July 8, 2021

Contact: goconnor@plasticsindustry.org                 Originally published in BIC Magazine

 

PLASTICS’ Radoszewski: There’s no substitute for plastics

By Eric Taylor

The first synthetic polymer was invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt.

It was created as a material substitute for ivory, and its life-saving importance has grown exponentially ever since. Today, rather than saving only the lives of elephants, it helps power homes, keeps food safe to eat, strengthens roads and bridges, and makes cars more fuel efficient. Its countless medical applications have also dramatically improved health and extended life expectancy.

"Plastics literally save lives," said Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

Despite its incredible value and modern ubiquity, there are still many challenges faced by the supply chain. "As an industry, we face a flat-out false media narrative, leading to bad policy," he said. "A key responsibility of PLASTICS is to unflinchingly educate the public on the countless positive contributions plastics make to society."

PLASTICS was founded in 1937 to support the entire plastics supply chain by educating policymakers and the public alike on those positive contributions. The association provides its almost 1,000 members with market research to arm them for combating the incorrect narratives like the misinformed environmental criticisms aimed at plastics.

"Attacks on plastics are wrong," Radoszewski asserted. "Plastic is important to virtually every human activity today, including environmental conservation. Plastics save time, money and energy because they're affordable, convenient, strong, durable and environmentally friendly, as lifecycle analyses show."

For example, by replacing heavier and more energy-intensive materials such as iron and steel, plastic saves on the tremendous costs of replacement and repair due to its extended lifespan.

"Corroding metallic pipes result in an annual loss of approximately 17 percent of all water pumped in the U.S. and more than $50 billion a year in maintenance and replacement," he said. "Plastic piping can last more than a century, and plastic insulation saves 40 times the energy required to make it."

Plastic bags are another familiar target of wrongheaded criticisms.

"Did you know plastic bags require 70 percent less energy and 96 percent less water to manufacture than paper bags?" Radoszewski asked.

These stark energy efficiency savings and environmental benefits represent why PLASTICS' mission is so important. Instead of outlawing plastics wholesale, "what [the industry] needs to do is improve waste management and recycling. New materials, product designs and manufacturing methods are conserving resources."

One of the association's many successful initiatives for encouraging recycling and reclaiming the value of discarded plastics is its New End Market Opportunities. A poignant recent success of the initiative was realized when LyondellBasell paved its parking lot using the equivalent of 71,000 plastic bags. "You can't pave a parking lot with paper bags," Radoszewski said.

The future of PLASTICS

The value of plastic materials to society isn't likely to change. "I see continued growth for the plastics industry because there's no substitute," Radoszewski predicted.

That outlook motivates PLASTICS to continue its mission of educating about the value of plastics, driving growth and engagement for members and customers, leading the industry in sustainability efforts, and advocating for an environment where the plastics industry thrives.

"PLASTICS and the plastics industry are inseparable. We're an organizing body charting a course for the future of plastics," Radoszewski asserted. 

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