By Tony Radoszewski, President & CEO, The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS)
A recent Bloomberg article is typical of superficial attacks on the plastics industry. It begins with a somewhat self-serving and misleading headline, “Plastic is the Hero of Coronavirus, says the Plastics Industry,” and follows up with more falsehoods.
The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) is proud to represent companies and employees producing plastic resin and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The true heroes are those treating COVID-19 patients. However, biased reporters like those at Bloomberg often overlook the necessity of plastic in medicine, nutrition and more. PLASTICS exists to tell the full story.
What the reporter gets right is that, during a public health crisis, Americans are rediscovering the benefits of plastic, including primary-use items like face masks and surgical gloves. Plastic is crucial to medical packaging and device components. Contrary to the Bloomberg article, state and local governments are repealing or suspending plastic bag bans, not because of any sinister plot, but because the health benefits are obvious.
Other, more common primary uses of plastic items such as grocery bags, take-out containers, disposable dinnerware, water and beverage bottles have become so commonplace, the consumer only recognizes the convenience and not the sanitary aspect of these products. Contrary to the author, our members are simply here to provide what customers need at any given time, not dictate their choices.
The reporter’s insinuation that coronavirus has been a boon to the plastics industry is also wrong. While some healthcare divisions and packaging concerns may be operating at capacity, the overall plastics industry is generally experiencing the same downturn as the rest of the economy. Struggling auto, construction and other industrial sectors are crucial to jobs and growth nationwide.
Of course, the reporter never mentions nearly one million U.S. plastics jobs at stake. Efforts to ban plastic, an agenda just beneath the surface of an opinion piece disguised as news, is a bigger threat to middle-class prosperity than a temporary shutdown due to coronavirus.
Activists are also targeting recycling jobs for elimination, because recycling supports a sustainable plastics industry, in addition to sustainable aluminum, glass and paper. This is where the Bloomberg piece completely “breaks down,” to borrow a term from the article, which ends as it begins: falsely.
Paper hardly breaks down easily. It certainly is recyclable, and according to EPA statistics, it is the most recycled product. However, contrary to the author, plastic grocery bags are recyclable, and most major grocery chains have receptacles in their stores for collection. The Bloomberg piece further fails to report on the plastics industry’s efforts to protect the environment from litter. For instance, the bipartisan RECOVER Act would improve collection and sorting infrastructure to increase recycling rates of every common material.
PLASTICS has created initiatives such as New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) to develop new uses for recycled plastic, Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) to prevent plastic pellet loss, and the Re|focus Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievements in sustainability, such as biodegradable plastic containers and others made from 100% percent recycled material. One can check out ThisIsPlastics.com for more information about the significant benefits plastics provide to society.
We create forums for experts to explore product life cycles and the problem of marine debris. In addition to the RECOVER Act, we support the Save Our Seas Act 2.0, another bipartisan bill to prevent waste in the oceans. Far from a “pariah,” as the reporter might hope, PLASTICS agrees with the majority of Americans who abhor litter and want to protect the environment. Plastic companies are leading the global effort.
When PLASTICS contacted Bloomberg to correct some of these errors, the reporter’s response was, essentially, “no comment.” Regardless, our association will continue to tell the full story and demonstrate that people live longer, healthier and better because of plastics.